New London sale following Lexington’s lead

The London Selected Yearling Sale, to be held Saturday and Sunday at the Metroland Media Agri-Plex at the Western Fair District in London, ON, is the result of the Forest City Yearling Sale and Standardbred Canada’s Canadian Yearling Sale joining forces.

by Dave Briggs

This weekend’s inaugural London Selected Yearling Sale was born with some inspiration from the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. Now the co-manager of the London sale is hoping to replicate the gangbuster results of the Lexington auction, as well.

“It was a phenomenal sale in Lexington and beyond expectations, as far as being able to top last year’s statistics. It’s exciting that there’s such a strong market,” said Ann Straatman, reached Wednesday at the Metroland Media Agri-Plex facility at the Western Fair District in London, ON while setting up for the London Selected Yearling Sale that will be held Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 14-15). Both sessions begin at noon.

The Lexington sale, which was formed in 2002 when the Kentucky Standardbred Sale and Tattersalls Yearling Sale came together, concluded last week with records for gross ($36,410,000), average ($58,537), median ($42,000) and number of yearlings that sold for $100,000 or more (103).

The London sale is the result of a similar partnership — this one between the Forest City Yearling Sale and Standardbred Canada’s Canadian Yearling Sale.

Due to the end of the Slots at Racetracks Program (SARP) in 2013 and declining Ontario foal numbers in recent years because of it — numbers that are on the rise starting with this year’s yearling crop thanks, in part, to an annual government investment in the industry of nearly $100 million — Straatman and others have been lobbying for years to have one major Ontario sale. She credits Standardbred Canada CEO Dan Gall, who took that position mid-way through 2016, for bringing the two sales companies together.
“We’ve had these discussions for years now and it was Dan Gall and his insight into bringing Ontario together at this time that we were able to put it all together this year. I give him a lot of credit in being instrumental in taking that leap forward,” said Straatman, who will co-manage the new sale with Standardbred Canada’s Heather Reid.

Though the two sales were competitors, of sorts, Straatman said that, so far, the two operations have found a way to work well with each other.

“Logistically, we separated our responsibilities into site management and sales management. Standardbred Canada and Forest City Yearling Sale managed the administration portion of the sales very similarly, so it was an easy transition to allow Standardbred Canada to be responsible for that portion and they allowed Forest City Yearling Sale to be responsible for the site preparation. That’s been an easy, cooperative relationship,” said Straatman, who is also the reproduction manager of Seelster Farms in Lucan ON, which will sell 49 yearlings at the sale and is one of the province’s largest breeding operations, standing eight stallions.
Straatman said she thinks consignors and buyers will see a huge benefit from having just one major yearling sale in Ontario.

“I think it’s one-stop shopping. The convenience is one big step forward,” she said. “Being able to compare the horses all together under one roof, I think will give an advantage to the buyers. They won’t be waiting to see what’s coming at the next sale. They will see everything all together and be able to make their selections immediately that day.”

The primary attraction at the London sale is Ontario-sired horses eligible to the lucrative Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) program that will feature some $13.25 million in purses in 2018.

Ontario-sired yearlings sold very well in Lexington where 97 went through the ring grossing $4,544,000 total for an average of $46,845. Progeny of Kadabra, who stands at Tara Hills Stud in Port Perry, ON, grossed the most of the Ontario sires with $1,079,000 total for 19 sold, an average of $56,789. First-crop sire Sunshine Beach from Seelster Farms had the highest average of $84,667 for three yearlings sold.

“We are excited for the Sunshine Beaches,” said Straatman, wearing her Seelster hat for a second. “They showed athleticism during their videos. I’m really impressed. They have a talent for rhythm, they are graceful. They really do look the part. We’re hoping the next step forward for him is to be able to show it on the track next year with his two-year-old crop.”

Straatman said she hopes that trend of Ontario-sired yearlings being popular in Lexington — particularly with Canadian buyers, of course — will continue in London.

“People are looking for Ontario-sired horses and recognizing the strength of the program here in Ontario and paying for those type of horses in order to be able to play in the Sires Stakes. It’s very exciting for us,” she said.

This year’s crop of provincially-sired horses is not only up in numbers from last year, it’s more diverse thanks to the introduction of some first-crop sires besides Sunshine Beach — E L Titan ($79,833 average in Lexington for six sold), Royalty For Life ($51,167, six sold) and Sunfire Blue Chip (none sold in Lexington).

That lineup is buoyed by offspring by veteran Ontario stallions such as Kadabra, Shadow Play, Sportswriter and Mach Three.

“I think we have a great offering this year,” Straatman said. “I think the strength of our catalogue has increased. We have a lot of the popular perennial sires this year, plus we’ve got some new crop sires that I’m very excited about as well.”

Straatman said the only fair way to compare the results of the London sale with previous years is to combine the results of previous years, making this year’s results harder to predict.

Last year, the Forest City Yearling Sale sold 132 yearlings for a total of $3,480,000, an average of $26,364. The average was the highest in at least 16 years and the gross was the highest since 2011, the year before the announcement was made that the government was cancelling the slots program. The Canadian Yearling Sale sold 144 horses in 2016 and recorded a gross of $2,972,200 which was also its highest total since 2011 when double the number of horses were sold. The 2016 Canadian Yearling Sale average of $20,640 was down some three per cent from the average of $21,350 fetched in 2015.

Combining the results of last year’s two sales shows 276 yearlings were sold for a total gross of $6,452,200. The average was $23,378.

Saturday’s opening session of the London sale comes the same day as that evening’s $1.8 million OSS Super Finals at Mohawk. That was no accident. The sale and the Super Finals, which feature eight championship races going for $225,000 apiece, are designed to showcase the Ontario breed, which has long been among the industry’s best.

“We have equal quality (selling) on both days,” Straatman said. “Our horses were alphabetized using their dams’ names. The first 120 will sell on Saturday and the remainder will sell on Sunday. We chose a shorter day on Saturday to accommodate Super Final night at Mohawk. We want to make sure that everybody is able to get away by 4:00 or 4:30 in the afternoon to be able to attend that event that night.”
Straatman said the Metroland Media Agri-Plex is a great facility to buy and sell horses.

“It has recently undergone a huge renovation and is state-of-the-art as far as selling horses and hosting events,” Straatman said. “Regardless of the weather on the weekend, we’ll be dry and toasty inside.”

Complete sale roster available here.