The yearling sale concluded Wednesday with an average of $38,608 that was the highest in nine years and up 25.3 per cent over last year.
by Dave Briggs
As the last handful of yearlings headed for the auction ring Wednesday at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Standardbred Horse Sales Company senior vice-president Jim Simpson, who doubles as the president of Hanover Shoe Farms, was looking extremely pleased with the results.
“It looks like we’re headed for the second best sale we’ve ever had in average. I’m ecstatic,” Simpson said.
The three-day yearling sale concluded with Wednesday’s eight-and-a-half hour session. In all, 868 yearlings sold for a total gross of $33,511,501 to produce an average of $38,608 that was the highest in nine years — the 2007 sale averaged $40,784,000 — and the second highest average since at least 2002. This year’s average was up 25.3 per cent, though 142 fewer horses were sold this year compared to 2015.
Sale president and CEO Pete Spears said it was a “great sale” because of “the adjustments on supply and demand. People have to have horses now. They are getting very close to having racehorse shortages and the breeders are not breeding as many horses. Ontario has yet to really ramp back up again (in terms of breeding numbers), after their disaster a few years ago, so people were still slugging until the very end here.”
Preferred Equine’s David Reid agreed the strong sale is probably due to supply and demand.
“Any time we have a reduction it’s with the lesser-quality horses, which is good,” Reid said. “Now, in the next few years, we’ll have to concentrate on supply and demand for the racetrack owners, because it will be interesting to see what happens.”
Wednesday’s session saw 389 yearlings gross $7,970,501, an average of $20,490 that was up 33.4 per cent from the 2015 third-session average of $15,364 produced when 360 yearlings grossed $5,531,000.
The Wednesday sale topper was a Chapter Seven colt out of Final Countdown named Alarm Detector that sold to Benoit Baillargeon of Guelph, ON for $110,000. Alarm Detector was consigned by Concord Stud Farm, agent. Another Canadian bought the second-highest yearling sold on Wednesday. Casie Coleman purchased Sportswriter—Ever Western colt Western Passage for $80,000. Coleman was the sale’s fifth leading buyer. She spent $571,000 on 11 yearlings over three days.
Serge Godin’s Determination Stable of Montreal was the sale’s top buyer. He spent $1,140,000 on nine yearlings. The Burke Racing Stable LLC was the second leading buyer, parting with $954,000, total, for 16 yearlings. Jimmy Takter, agent, was next on the list with $710,000 spent to take home four yearlings, followed by Jeffrey Synder, who spent $630,000, total, on four yearlings.
Heading into the Harrisburg sale, which started Monday (Nov. 7) and continued Tuesday (Nov. 8), sale organizers were confident the sale would be up for two reasons: 1. The Lexington Selected Yearling Sale posted record numbers and other regional sales mostly had positive results and 2.
Last year’s Harrisburg sale numbers were impacted when the Pennsylvania governor threatened to shut down racing.
“We felt fairly confident because all of the other sales were strong,” said sale vice-president Russell Williams. “They tend to move together, rising tide floats all boats, as they say. We stayed off the governor’s horizon this year and we had a nice catalogue so it worked out.”
“Last year was troubling because of the political situation,” Simpson said. “Now we have legislation all passed with a combined commission that looks like it’s very functional. We’ve got two standardbred horsepeople on the commission and two thoroughbred people on the commission.”
This year’s number were positively impacted by a select opening session in which 170 yearlings grossed $13,375,000 total for a record opening-session average of $78,676 that was up 41 per cent over the $55,781 opening session average in 2015.
“We did have a primo sale on Monday, selling fewer in order to start the momentum and, sure enough, it did carry through to the next day. Now today, it’s an alphabetical day,” Williams said.
Hunterton Farms’ Steve Stewart said it was “a very good sale from start to finish, just like it was in Lexington. When the supply is reduced, the prices go up and that’s what has happened… Last year, (Harrisburg) went to three days, but the supply stayed the same with just as many horses (as the year before). This year, they reduced it 10 per cent or more. Going to fewer horses the first day was the key, because it got the sale, just like Lexington, off to a rocking start.”
Simpson said the sale would likely replicate the format next year.
“I think having the power on the first day and distributing the next two days somewhat evenly is a good formula,” said Simpson. “Every year is different, but this formula has worked this year. I’m certainly leaning towards doing that next year.
“I think the buyers like us to stratify the horses, so people looking for money horse, we are doing a lot of their work for them. I think the same at Lexington, it’s a good formula and a lot of people looking today don’t bother looking Monday. I think it’s good and it works out.”
Most buyers and consignors agreed that a select Monday session worked well. Though, Twinbrook Farms’ Tammy McNiven said she prefers having the yearlings divided equally over three days.
“Today is really long for everybody, so just to spread it out over the three days a little more evenly, I think it would be nicer for everybody, she said.
Twinbrook, which is based in Ontario, has been selling yearlings at Harrisburg for about 20 years. Last year, the farm had a career-best sale. This year’s Twinbrook yearlings didn’t fare quite as well, but McNiven said she was pleased with the results in which they sold eight yearlings for $357,000 total, an average of $44,625. Last year, Twinbrook sold 11 yearlings for $607,000 total, an average of $55,182.
“It’s hard to live up to last year’s expectation, but I think we still had a decent average this year, and because of Harrisburg being so good to us, we’ve really renewed our broodmare band and I think in the next two years we are going to have really nice stock to come down here.
“I’m really surprised more Canadians don’t try to do what we do, but, you know, we’ve been lucky because we breed half and half (American vs. Canadian breds). This year, is the first year we’ve only had three Ontario Sired (yearlings to sell). We left them at home because of 30 cents on the dollar and we didn’t think Canadians should have to come and pay the 30 per cent. So we had all American-breds here.”
Hanover Shoe Farms led all consignors by a margin of $6.5 million with a gross of $10,047,500 for 215 yearlings sold ($46,733 average). Preferred Equine was second in gross with $3,428,500 for 114 yearlings ($30,075 average).
“I think (Preferred) had a good day, today. I’m very happy and my customers are very happy. We had a nice group of horses coming in here, and I’m very satisfied with the results,” Reid said. “Now we just turn the page and get ready for the breeding market tomorrow and then I’m really looking forward to the racehorses on Friday.”
Concord Stud Farm, agent, the third leading consignor in gross ($2,739,000), led all consignors in average with a figure of $66,805 for 41 sold.
White Birch Farms’ Steve Williams said he was happy with how his yearlings sold through the Preferred consignment. “You always have a few that sell for more than you expect, then some less so it evens out,” Williams said. “On the whole, I sold 29 and was happy with the prices. If you had something that people wanted, they weren’t scared to bid. I had a few good ones.”
Winbak Farms was the fourth leading consignor with 98 sold for a total of $2,631,000, an average of $26,847. Winbak yearling manager Jimmy Ladwig said, “We were still strong through today, so we were more than happy.”
Not surprisingly, Muscle Hill and Somebeachsomewhere were the top trotting and pacing sires, respectively.
Muscle Hill led all stallions with an incredible average price of $149,952 for 21 sold. Somebeachsomewhere progeny averaged $74,400 for 60 sold. Three trotting sires were next on the list — Chapter Seven ($61,773 for 22 sold), Cantab Hall ($60,293, 41) and Kadabra ($56,684, 19). On the pacing side, American Ideal followed Somebeachsomewhere with an average of $48,946 for 37 sold.
Pacing colts led all segments with 235 grossing $10,235,000 for an average of $43,553. Trotting colts averaged $40,487 thanks to 197 selling for $7,976,000, total. Trotting fillies averaged $40,258 with 194 grossing $7,810,000 in all. Pacing fillies averaged $30,952 with 242 selling for $7,490,501 in total.
As for what the nearly record breaking numbers say about the industry, Simpson said it just means “people love horses and people are looking for reasons to buy them, not looking for reasons to not buy horses.”
Reid said right now the yearling market is “solid, which is consistent with what’s going on in the marketplace throughout the year. I actually think that from top to bottom it is a really strong market.”
Hanover Shoe Farms, for one, is already making plans to reinvest.
“The most immediate effect of this successful sale is the meeting with Mr. Simpson and Mr. Williams to decide on buying broodmare and reinvesting in the business,” Spears said referring to the two-day Harrisburg Mixed Sale that begins this morning and concludes Friday. “We’ve got (new stallion) Betting Line. We’re investing in him. We put back the money that we make here. Certainly after this sale we are enthusiastic about it.”