Nonetheless, there are causes for concern. In spite of its strength at the top, this appears to be a highly risk-averse market. Even among the elite youngsters---those accepted into Book 1 on the strength of their pedigrees and conformation---there were half a dozen that changed hands for US$20,000 or less, probably as the result of suboptimal veterinary reports. Many others were either RNAs or were sold at prices that would not have recouped the stud fees. As the sale progressed through later books, the same selectivity remained marked.
The irony is that the Thoroughbred industry is by its very nature a high-risk, high-reward enterprise, and some of the people who chose to take chances on youngsters with less than perfect vet profiles will undoubtedly be rewarded. Just as the results of spinal X-rays in human medicine often have little correlation with patients' reports of pain and disability, radiographs and scoping do not always distinguish between horses whose imperfections may preclude a successful racing career and those whose flaws will never cause them any problems. Any sale so large as Keeneland's is bound to have its bargains, and this one will probably contribute a few of its own to racing lore.
A more concerning statistic is the decline of the median sales price---the figure at which half the yearlings sold for more and half sold for less---from US$50,000 to US$40,000. This is troubling because it essentially represents a drop in the number of yearlings that were sold for even a modest profit on stud fees and the costs of producing and rearing them, and is not good news for small breeders. We will learn next year whether this is reflected in fewer mares being bred, a contraction not likely to be welcomed by a racing industry which already has problems enough with short fields.