10/06/2009 12:00AM

Keeneland November catalog down 17 percent


This year's catalog for the mammoth Keeneland November breeding stock sale includes 4,702 horses, according to the sales company, a 17.4 percent decline from the record number of horses cataloged for the sale last year.

The contraction is yet another sign that the breeding industry is undergoing a massive restructuring during the worldwide recession. Last year, the November catalog included 5,709 horses, a record number, and gross receipts declined 45.6 percent, while the average price declined 39 percent.

The Keeneland November sale is the largest of its kind in the United States, and like the Keeneland September yearling sale, the auction serves as the most accurate barometer of the health of particular segments of the breeding industry. Though horses of racing age and stallions are also offered at the sale, the catalog is dominated by broodmares and weanlings.

This year, 1,885 weanlings were cataloged to the sale, a drop of 34.8 percent when compared with 2,893 weanlings cataloged last year. There were 2,337 broodmares, a jump of 3.1 percent compared with the number in last year's catalog.

Tom Thornbury, Keeneland's assistant director of sales, said that bloodstock owners were probably reluctant to offer weanlings this year because of the weakness in the yearling market, which has a significant impact on weanling prices because so many weanling buyers resell the horses as yearlings. At this year's September sale, the average price for a yearling was down 33.3 percent, and median was down 40.5 percent.

"A good deal of [the contraction] has to be because sellers do not want to sell into a buyer's market," Thornbury said.

In addition, preliminary estimates from the Jockey Club indicate that the foal crop this year contracted by approximately 1,800 foals, or 5.4 percent, and that may have had an impact on the decreased number of weanlings cataloged to the sale.

The November sale is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Nov. 10, and will run through Nov. 22. The sale had previously been scheduled to begin on Monday, Nov. 9, but Keeneland delayed the start by one day to accommodate horsemen who may be traveling from Southern California after attending the Nov. 6-7 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita.