Icy Stable and Farhi Standardbreds stepping up

Jim Laird’s Icy Stable is on the rise as a commercial breeder since partnering with major real estate developer Shmuel Farhi to acquire, breed, raise and sell the best standardbreds possible.

by Sandra Snyder | Sponsored by Ontario Racing

Yearling sale season kicks into high gear next week with the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale getting underway on Tuesday, Oct. 1. After five days in Lexington, buyers will open the London Selected Yearling Sale catalogue to prepare for that Oct. 19 and 20 sale weekend and then it is off to Harrisburg for the Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s Black Book sale on Nov. 4.

Icy Stable will sell 15 horses at the London sale — four of their own, two for their new partner Farhi Standardbreds and nine that were raised and prepped by other breeders — and Jim Laird said he and wife Kim are working flat out to have the yearlings looking their finest for potential buyers.

“The last two months it’s been very, very busy. These horses get worked with every day, walking them, getting them show ready, prepping them, making sure all the bleached hairs are out and everything like that. A lot of rubbing,” said Laird. “It’s getting busier now because we’ve had some phone calls, and we’ve had a few trainers stop by, and we’re having more trainers coming out in the weeks to follow to view the yearlings before the sale.”

The couple have been working with the Icy Stable and Farhi Standardbreds youngsters since they were foaled, but when the yearlings make the official move from spending their time in a happy herd to residing in individual stalls Laird said there is always a bit of chaos before they embrace the newfound advantages of indoor life.

“When they all come into the barn and they’re separated from their herds, there’s a lot of screaming and hollering going on in the barn. Our barn is set up where they can see each other, so we still do pair them up,” he said. “They love their turn out, they love their exercise, and like I said we get them used to picking up their feet, brushing, grooming and I think they enjoy it, the yearlings do. When it’s more one-on-one you get more attached to them at that time. You know what their personality and their temperament’s like all the time, but you get that closer bond when you’re working with them each and every day.”

In addition to the countless hours spent grooming, the young horses get lots of practice standing up square and walking on a lead, ready for prospective buyers to inspect their conformation and way of going. They are also taught to get on and off a horse trailer and stand for the blacksmith and veterinarian.

Once the yearlings have mastered all the skills that will help them adapt to their future role as racehorses and are starting to gleam from all the hours of grooming it is time to book the videographer, which Laird said is among the most stressful days on the calendar.

“We just had our videos done last week and video is always a stressful time. It’s probably one of the most stressful times when we are prepping yearlings. You have these horses and you’re brushing them, and you’re working with them, and then you take them out into the video paddock and you’re basically chasing them, getting them to go, getting them to perform their best,” said the London, ON resident. “And of course when they’re in their natural environment they’re up and down the fields pacing and trotting, doing what they always do, but when you put them in the video paddock sometimes it doesn’t work out. The videos don’t show, sometimes, the true character of what your horse will look like in its natural environment.”

Icy Stable will sell four pacers from their own mares at the London sale, including a Hes Watching colt from foundation mare Icicle Angel who inspired the stable name, seven pacers from other breeders, and four trotters, two of Farhi Standardbreds’ and two from other breeders. Laird said that the moment when each of their yearlings walks into the sales ring is a bittersweet one.

“You’ve worked so hard for those three years and it’s the point where everything that you’ve done, the decisions that you’ve made, the time and the energy that you put into these things, how they show at the sale, it comes down to that two, three minutes that that horse is in that ring. When the hammer goes down, the hammer goes down,” he said. “So it’s a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of hours, but we love what we do and we’ll be in it forever. Long hours, a lot of work, but we’ve been successful in selling horses and I think the years to come, I am more excited for those years to come because of the quality of horses that are at this farm. It’s just going to get better.”

Two years ago, the Lairds moved their horses to Windsong Acres, which was in the process of being sold by Bill Loyens to London, ON developer Shmuel Farhi. Through the transition, the Lairds helped Loyens out with his remaining horses and when Farhi, whose daughter was already involved with riding horses, expressed an interest in continuing the tradition of breeding standardbreds on the 70-acre property they found themselves with a new and enthusiastic partner.

“Everything just sort of fell into place, so we’re very fortunate,” said Laird. “When you have an owner that wants to be the best of the best, and all he cares about is the health and the safety of his horses and his people, and getting the best and breeding the best, you can’t ask for more than that.”

In the last 24 months, Farhi has assembled an impressive roster of well-bred young mares. Myimpossibledream (Chocolatier–Spellbound Hanover), a half-sister to Marion Marauder, and Beach Showoff (Somebeachsomewhere–Put On A Show), a half-sister to Meadowlands Pace champion Best In Show, will both have yearlings selling at Harrisburg this fall. Gallic Sea (Somebeachsomewhere–Galleria) and Pretty Phylly G (R C Royalty–Bourbon N Grits), a full-sister to Royalty For Life, joined the group last November and Way Bettor (Bettors Delight–West Of L A), a full-sister to L A Delight and half-sister to Somewhere In L A, is the most recent acquisition.

“We’ve got a lot of really good broodmares here and we bred to the best stallions,” said Laird. “We have never sold at Harrisburg, next year will be our first year selling there and we’ll be bringing 10 yearlings there.”

This year, the Lairds will be in Harrisburg to watch the Farhi Standardbreds yearlings sell and to help Farhi acquire additional broodmares. After that they will begin the process of selecting the best stallion for each regally-bred mare in the hopes of producing a future superstar, a suddenly realistic goal that was not even among their wildest dreams when they purchased Icicle Angel nine years ago.

Stakes action Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

Sept. 27 – Woodbine Mohawk Park – OSS Grassroots Two-year-old Semi-Finals
Sept. 28 – Woodbine Mohawk Park – OSS Grassroots Three-year-old Semi-Finals
Sept. 30 – Woodbine Mohawk Park – OSS Gold Series (2fp)
Oct. 1 – Woodbine Mohawk Park – OSS Gold Series (2ct)
Oct. 2 – Flamboro Downs – OSS Gold Series (2ft)

Ontario handicapping picks

A deep selection of handicapping picks for Ontario racetracks — featuring the talents of Garnet Barnsdale, Michael Bozich and Michael Carter — is available on the Ontario Racing website.