Seelster celebrates 50th anniversary with exceptional sale

The Lucan, ON farm grossed over $1.8 million over two days at the third annual London Selected Yearling Sale, which concluded Sunday with the average down 4.6 per cent and the gross down 11 per cent from a strong 2018 auction.

by Dave Briggs

Karen Favacho, the farm manager of Seelster Farms, said she couldn’t imagine a better way for the Lucan, ON nursery to celebrate its 50th year than to post outstanding results at the London Selected Yearling Sale which concluded Sunday at the Agri-Plex facility at the Western Fair District in London, ON.

Seelster Farms led all consignors by a wide margin with $1,840,000 in gross sales for 47 yearlings sold. Seelster also led all consignors in average with $39,149 and sold the overall sale-topper, the second-session topper and eight of the 10 highest-priced yearlings sold overall.

After setting an all-time record for a yearling sold at a Canadian auction on Saturday when Marlboro Seelster fetched $270,000 from Dr. Ian Moore on behalf of Jeff Snyder of New York (full story here), Seelster topped Sunday’s session with a Bettors Delight colt out of Winbak Alice named Armor Seelster purchased by Adriano Sorella of Guelph, ON for $95,000.

“We put in a lot of hard work,” said Seelster’s veterinary technician Tina Marie Howard. “It’s nerve-wracking just before the sale, but it’s exciting to see how it all plays out in the end.”

Assistant farm manager Walter Parkinson said the farm’s average of $39,149 was higher than its average in 2018, but lower than 2017.

“I think it’s the second-best average ever for Seelster,” Parkinson said, adding the Seelster team is buoyed that its horses can sell so well in Ontario. “I think it says a lot, that buyers are willing to come to London and purchase the best that money can buy.”

Favacho added, “It makes us feel confident, too, that we’re going to continue to take our consignment, our Ontario breds, and sell them in Ontario because you can sell them for high prices. It’s easy to sell them in your backyard and keep them in Ontario.”

She said the Seelster staff heard from buyers that they liked the updated pedigrees on many of its yearlings.

“We have fresh mares,” Favacho said. “We also got so many comments this year on how our horses looked. They thought they were exceptional-looking horses and I think that makes them feel confident to purchase them and feel confident that they were raised the right way.”

Now the Seelster principals must decide how best to reinvest the money it earned from the sale.

“It’s about looking over the entire operation and thinking about how we can improve for next year. How we can improve the crop, not only the stock that we have, but the facility and the program and what we do and how we can tweak it to be even better next year. So, we’re always thinking of that,” Favacho said.

“Our facility is getting of an age, so our wish list is to start to renovate and tear down some old buildings and put some new buildings up and build them the way we want them to be built… make them efficient and make them safe and everything we want them to be.”

In all, 291 yearlings combined to gross $6,285,000 for an average of $21,598 for the complete sale. The gross was down 11 per cent from the $7,064,800 reached in 2018 when 312 yearlings sold. This year’s average was off 4.6 per cent from last year’s average of $22,644. This year’s gross was down 16.6 per cent from the 2017 sum of $7,536,000 and this year’s average was off 12.3 per cent from the 2017 average of $24,627.

“I’m pleased with the sale. I was hoping that the momentum would have carried more into Day 2 after such an outstanding Day 1, but an average of $21,000 is still a good average and I’m hoping that we can build on that for next year,” said sale manager Ann Straatman. “I have to give credit to our auction crew and to our management staff in the office. It’s truly a team effort to put together such a high-quality sale and hopefully next year we can even do better.”

On Sunday alone, 172 yearlings grossed $2,908,988, total, for an average of $16,913. The gross was down 30.7 per cent from the second session in 2018 when the gross was $4,194,800 (and 40 more horses were sold). This year’s second-session average was down 14.5 per cent from last year when the average on day two was $19,787.