In an effort to put the Saratoga yearling sale in perspective, Fasig-Tipton vice president and COO Boyd Browning was somewhat at a loss to explain the decrease in average price, other than as a trend at nearly all auctions this year.
Many within the industry say that trend -- more horses offered and sold at lower average prices, coupled with the steady increase in foal production and increases in stud fees -- sounds a clarion call that innovation is needed to attract and retain new Thoroughbred owners.
“There were some new players in the game, but not as (many) as we would want,” Browning said of the Saratoga auction. “There was not a dramatic person or entity that came in as a new market maker. There were some grassroots (ownership) efforts in place (at the sale). Do we wish there would be more? Absolutely.”
Rob Whiteley, whose Liberation Farm was co-breeder of the Mr. Greeley colt that topped the Saratoga sale at $2.2 million, considers the lack of new owners the biggest problem facing the Thoroughbred industry.
“There is not a problem of overproduction,” Whiteley said. “The problem is not enough owners.”
Whiteley is among those who believe all stakeholders in the industry should participate in breeding and ownership entities to help the industry move toward fulfilling its potential.
Ongoing industry-wide moves to attract new owners have seen tepid results. While there is some momentum within certain niches of the industry – slot-infused purse increases in some regional markets and a higher number of partnerships being formed – those efforts need to be more widespread and sustained.
Meanwhile, the trend of more horses being offered for sale as yearlings will get its true litmus test next month at the Keeneland September yearling sale, with a record 5,553 entered.
A lot of owners – new and old – will be needed to sustain those numbers. – Ron Mitchell