Statistics for the four combined Tattersalls October Yearling Sales tell us that the average price of 103,571gns for a yearling in 2023 fell by 21.6% from 12 months ago, on the face of it a seismic shift. But when we contextualise this average price against the previous five years, a different less drastic picture emerges. For a start, this year’s average price was higher than the 98,352gns of 2021 and the 91,751gns of 2020. True, it was also lower that the three years leading up to Covid year, but less drastically so. Moreover, when we assess the market by median price, we find that 2023’s 52,000gns is at least the second best on record.

It is tempting to view last year’s record numbers as the odd man out and indeed as last year’s October Sale progressed from Book 1 to Book 2, it felt unreal at the time, a suspicion that was confirmed when we totted up the bullish spending by the likes of Sheikh Mohammed who gave £26.8 million for 36 yearlings. It was never on the cards that this was going to be repeated this year and in fact it wasn’t as Godolphin forked out £13.4 million, still a hefty sum, at this year’s October Sale. Allied to that, a further 10.45 million guineas was pumped into last year’s October market by Saleh Al Homaizi through agent Richard Knight. He would later default on those payments.

For the record, failing to keep up with bloated and unsustainable demand happened only at Tattersalls as the Goffs Orby, Goffs Premier and Arqana August Sales all increased their average price in 2023. Taken as a whole the average yearling price in Europe fell back from £77,444 in 2022 to £69,001 this year but was still well ahead of the £62,836 average in 2021. The scaling back of demand was most keenly felt in the top 10% of the market and in the bottom 30%. The top 10% segment of the market, comprising 485 yearlings, averaged £336,268 this year which was 15% short of the average in 2022. But every 10% segment was down on the corresponding one 12 months ago ranging from a 4% deficit to the aforementioned 15%. The good news was that every 10% segment of this year’s market was also up on that of 2021, the top two deciles up by 12% each.

Another piece of good news was that production costs actually fell in 2023 compared to last year. Remarkably, the sires with 10-plus yearlings sold produced improved profitability figures in 2023 compared to last year. The average advertised fee for this year’s crop stood at £28,587, which was 4.1% lower than the average of £29,806 last year. All told, the 4,303 yearlings by stallions with 10-plus sold featured 2,082 who theoretically made money after a £20,000 upkeep fee is levied. That amounts to 48% which is well ahead of the 41% profitable a year ago.

On the foal-to-yearling pinhooking front, 1,083 yearlings (21%) were sourced at last year’s foal sales, but they featured only 419 (39%) that turned a profit after we add £10,000 for interim costs. Last year, bearing in mind it was very much a sellers’ market, 1,005 or 93% of the pinhooked yearlings made a profit after £10,000 was added to their purchase price. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the harsher conditions of 2023 does to the confidence of foal-to-yearling traders this year.

Looking at individual stallion performances by fee range is always insightful and offers the best evidence on whether a stallion is competitively priced. Among the elite stallions, those who stood in 2021 for £50,000 or higher, it was between Dubawi and Frankel for the top spot and it was Dubawi, backed by eight Godolphin purchases, who ended up with the highest average price, and the most profitable yearlings with 18 of 20 making the fee plus £20,000 upkeep costs. The Darley stallion his previous best of five juvenile Group winners headed by the Group 1 National Stakes winner Henry Longfellow and Group 1 Racing Post Trophy winner Ancient Wisdom, himself a €2 million Arqana August graduate. Meanwhile, Frankel, who looks assured of regaining his Britain and Ireland sires’ title this year and leads all European sires by number of stakes winners, posted the biggest average profit of the group so it was no surprise to see the Juddmonte sire’s fee rise from £275,000 to £350,000 next year.

The proven duo of Teofilo, now sire of three Melbourne Cup winners, and Camelot show up very well in the £20,000-£49,000 fee group, both siring plenty of profitable yearlings. It is also this cohort that features most of the best first-season sires at the yearling sales this year. Pinatubo, like the red-hot freshman Blue Point a son of Shamardal, posted the highest average profit and the highest percentage of profitable yearlings of any freshman sire. Ghaiyyath meanwhile had some big prices, including 19 six-figure yearlings and one for over a million bought by his owner Godolphin.

Too Darn Hot’s first yearlings outsold those by Blue Point last year, but the positions are reversed this year with Blue Point’s yearlings averaging £154,000 compared to Too Darn Hot’s £119,000. Both Darley sires have done brilliantly with their first runners this term, but the two Group 1 winners by Blue Point – a feat not achieved by a European first-season sire since the Sadler’s Wells colts Prince Of Dance and Scenic dead-heated in the 1988 Dewhurst Stakes – outrank Too Darn Hot’s single winner at the highest level. Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Rosallion is an ideal advertisement for his young sire in that he is sure to stay a mile next year which could be crucial to how breeders and yearling buyers perceive Blue Point going forward. And in Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint winner Big Evs, Blue Point surely has a top-notch sprinter in the making. No surprise then that he was one of only eight European stallions to record an average profit of over £100,000 in any fee category.

In the £10,000-£19,000 category the clear leader is Ballylinch Stud’s Dubawi stallion New Bay. His 2023 yearlings are from the first crop produced after his first two crops did so well 2020 and 2021, featuring Group winners New Mandate, Saffron Beach, Bayside Boy and Bay Bridge. His yearling average has soared to €127,000 this year and his average profit is well clear of anything else in the fee group as is his number of profitable yearlings which stand at 81.8%. The leading freshman among this group is Darley’s Earthlight, whose yearlings averaged £90,920 some 5.3 times his initial fee of €20,000. Only fellow Darley stallions Pinatubo and Ghaiyyath, plus Coolmore’s Sottsass recorded higher average prices in the sales under review. We should also commend the French pair Zarak and Galiway, both or who delivered profitability scores over 70%, second only to New Bay.

In the sub-£10,000 category, it was no surprise to see Havana Grey and Sioux Nation come to the fore. It was impossible not to be impressed with Havana Grey’s progeny this year. Among his many second-crop juvenile winners is the dual Group 1 winner Vandeek, rated the best two-year-old sprinter in Europe following victories in the Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes. With an average profit of £72,000 and a profitability percentage of 93.5 he is the clear winner among the sub-£10,000 cohort. Havana Grey’s chief rival last year was Sioux Nation, and he too falls into the category of cheaply produced yearlings selling after he’d created a favourable impression with his first runners. As many as 16 (76.2%) of Sioux Nation’s 21 yearlings sold made a profit. It is another son of Scat Daddy in first-season sire Sergei Prokofiev who produced the third best average profit among this group.