Even during a year filled with brutal corrections, there is still a sense in the Thoroughbred marketplace that at some point the bleeding will stop and the turnaround will begin.
So will that rebound occur during the upcoming breeding stock sales?
"I think the chance of that is not great," Bill Farish of Lane's End deadpanned.
All the optimism in the world can't overcome stark reality, and with the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale and Fasig-Tipton November mixed sale on the horizon, the effects of the economic downturn and industry overproduction still figure to be prominent.
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The Keeneland November sale runs Nov. 10-22 starting at 10 a.m. each day while the Fasig-Tipton one-night auction begins at 5 p.m. following Keeneland's opening session Tuesday.
The logistics of having two sales on one day may make life slightly more complicated for consignors and buyers, but it is the current market woes that present the real obstacle.
With the Keeneland September yearling sale posting declines of more than 41 percent in gross, breeders do not have the profits to reinvest.
While Keeneland November is offering a smaller catalog of 4,702 horses this season, compared with 5,709 a year ago, many breeders have already expressed a desire to further pull back in their operations for 2010.
"No question we're seeing the projected foal crop going down to 30,000, and I don't think we've seen the end of that trend," Farish said. "I'd say there are probably a fair number of mares that are in the sale that may not be bred back next year."
By the nature of what they are in offering top-end prospects, boutique sales have generally held up better this season — a trend Fasig-Tipton officials hope continues when they offer 153 horses Tuesday evening.
Last year's Fasig-Tipton sale bucked the downturns by posting an increase of more than 35 percent for its gross receipts.
However, that sale was bolstered by the world-record price of $14 million for Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour in addition to the $5.7 million champion filly Stardom Bound brought just days after her triumph in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
While this year's catalog boasts such standout offerings as champion Ginger Punch, in foal to Bernardini, even top-end buyers have been more reserved in their spending this season.
"I think the (lack of) credit is going to be a big factor overall," said Case Clay, president of Three Chimneys Farm. "There are a lot of people walking around buying horses because they have lines of credit. But if they don't have that anymore because banks are pulling them, they're not going to be raising their hands.
"It's evident now, you can see it in the sales, and it is thinner at the top end."
Unlike the Fasig-Tipton sale, the global downturn hit the Keeneland November sale full force last year as it suffered double-digit declines across the board compared to 2007, including a gross that plummeted by more than 45 percent.
There is some hope that because the auction was fully impacted a year ago, the correction won't be as drastic this time around. But given that buyers are more discriminating than ever, older mares who haven't produced recently could struggle to find new homes.
"The one byproduct with September where the phone was ringing were people calling me saying 'Please find a home for my mare. I can't afford to breed her anymore and whatever foal I get is not going to get back the stud fee'," said Dan Kenny of Four Star Sales. "And that's just heartbreaking. Sometimes these are mares you know people have had for eight or 10 years and actually produced when they were younger but, now, the fact of life is now they have no economic value."