We’ve been banging on about this subject for the past two months and our reservations about the capacity of the South African market are now well known.

That the international market is not able to afford the present top-end service fees (for it’s own reasons), is evident in the events that took place at the opening of the biggest, and most prestigious, yearling sale in the world. The progeny of the great Storm Cat were averaging just US$300,000 off a stud fee of US$500,000, and 33% were left unsold. Only one recorded more than the service fee.

Reporting from Keeneland, the world’s top commentator on the subject, Bill Oppenheim submitted the following article which appeared in the Thoroughbred Daily News.

Storm CatStorm CatWhat you saw yesterday was the low ebb of Book 1: down 23% in gross, down 27% in average, but a median down just 3%, from $310,000 to $300,000. That was a very significant figure yesterday, $300,000. The 18 horses bought by Darley (John Ferguson, 13) and Coolmore (D.L. O’Byrne, 5) averaged $1,058,889; the 153 yearlings bought by everybody else averaged $315,915. You’ve heard of Storm Cat? Sixteent catalogued yesterday, one out, so 15 through the ring, of which 10 sold. There were a couple of expensive buy-backs, but of the 10 sold, only one (the full sister to Bluegrass Cat, at $1 million) sold for more than the stud fee, and the 10 averaged $338,000—two-thirds of the stud fee. Happily, both Storm Cat and the sale are going to make significant recoveries today, when the lists are much longer than yesterday’s. But yesterday’s gross dropped $20 million, from $87.9-million last year to just under $67.4 million yesterday. Tuesday last year grossed $94,960,000, so today’s session will! lt has to be a completely different sale to recover that kind of ground.

The very serious message from yesterday’s session is that most serious buyers outside of the Big Two can only pay an average of $300,000 for Book 1 horses. Okay, maybe that goes up today, but it won’t be going up that much. Breeders will surely demand a very serious downward adjustment in upper echelon stud fees; if it sinks in that they’re only going to average $300,000 for Book 1 yearlings, how are they going to pay $200,000-plus stud fees? Even the most optimistic breeders can see that doesn’t add up.

TITAN SIREWATCH: Neutral A.P. Indy had three sell to Darley and one to Coolmore. Darley bought two by Darley sire Street Cry, one by Darley sire Elusive Quality, two by Distorted Humor, and one each by neutral stallions Dynaformer, Empire Maker, Silver Deputy, Smart Strike and Vindication. Coolmore also signed for one each by their sires Galileo and Fusaichi Pegasus, and one each by neutral stallions Seeking the Gold and El Corrdeor.