Joining Forces in Ontario

February 17, 2017

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For many years, the Forest City Yearling Sale and Canadian Yearling Sale competed over Canada’s top yearling market. Now the two sales are coming together to present one sale in the hope of providing the best possible buyer and seller experience.

by Dave Briggs

A new spirit of cooperation between Canada’s two biggest yearling sales has resulted in the Forest City Yearling Sale (FCYS) joining forces with Standardbred Canada’s Canadian Yearling Sale to produce a single, two-day select sale. An agreement in principle was, fittingly, announced on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14).

Principals from both sales say consignors and buyers should benefit from a combined auction to be called The London Selected Yearling Sale that will held Oct. 14-15 at The Western Fair District’s Metroland Media Agriplex in London, ON.

For many years, the two held competing yearling sales on different weekends in different locations — FCYS at the Agriplex and the Canadian Yearling Sale at Flamboro Downs in Hamilton.

“The question has always been: ‘Why are there two sales?’ That was a hard one for people to really answer,” said Dan Gall, CEO of Standardbred Canada. “What we’re trying to do is offer opportunity to showcase the best of the yearlings under one roof and at one sale.”

FCYS president Ann Straatman said declining yearling numbers in Ontario in recent years means a single, strong sale is the best way to go for all parties.

“Customers have been asking for this for awhile now. I’m hoping the consignors will be as on board as the customers are,” Straatman said, adding the division of duties between the two companies will play to each other’s strengths.

Straatman will oversee site management — coordinating setup, stalls, the auction block, hiring local help, etc. — while Standardbred Canada, led by sales manager Heather Reid, will handle the administration — taking in sale entries, coordinating the inspections, creating the catalog and running the sale office on the sale days.

“I think it’s a true partnership where we’ve delegated and compartmentalized our roles and have some true savings and efficiencies by doing so,” Straatman said.

Gall called the partnership, “a win-win not only being able to partner with Ann (Straatman) and her team, but also for those that now only have to go to one sale to do their shopping. It’s almost like a one-stop shop.”

The sale will be the same weekend the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) Super Finals will be held on Oct. 14 at Mohawk Racetrack.

“Hopefully, that will attract people who wouldn’t necessarily come into the province for that weekend,” Straatman said. “We will accommodate those wanting to attend the races as well as those actually participating in the races. We’ll make sure everyone is able to get away in time and there will not be an interruption from the sale. It will likely create a longer day — depending on the entries — on the Sunday.”

Straatman said the combined sale will benefit from the fact that both sales were already similar in structure.

“Standardbred Canada runs their sale much like ours and very efficiently,” Straatman said. “I think Heather Reid has done a great job over the years and has a great staff support behind her… I have complete faith in their abilities to run the sale efficiency. There’s nothing major that still needs to be decided.”

Both Gall and Straatman said having the sale in London was the obvious choice.

“The airport is right there, there’s many hotels very, very close. There is lots of restaurants, the racetrack has Friday night racing,” Straatman said. “There were so many reasons why the Western Fair District is a one-stop place for sales and shows. The Agriplex itself has just undergone a huge renovation and it is a state-of-the-art facility with everything we could ask for.”

Straatman said the deal to run a joint sale is just a one-year agreement for now to see how the arrangement works before deciding whether to enter into a longer-term contract.

“So far, it has been moving along very smoothly,” Straatman said, though both she and Gall admitted there’s a lot of work to do.

“We really do have to roll up our sleeves and say, ‘What’s best for the sale? What’s best for the industry?’ We have to keep that focus on our customer,” Gall said. “This is a very customer-focused decision.”

In a press release announcing the merger, Reid said she was “looking forward to working with our sellers and Forest City Sales to present a best in class Yearling Sale.”

Gall said he liked Reid’s comment and hopes the new partnership will prove to be, “something that we can all be proud of, we can all promote and rally around… We want to create an event that’s going to get not only the horse-buying public excited, but, hopefully, the general public excited about what our sport is all about and get some interest in generating outside of the norm of those horse buyers.”

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