Thomson explains Winbak’s decision to launch new Ontario sale to sell its yearlings

Preferred Equine will also sell its Canadian yearlings at the new sale at Winbak’s Ontario farm.

by Dave Briggs

Winbak Farm owner Joe Thomson said no offense to the London Selected Yearling Sale (LSYS), but he would prefer to sell his Ontario yearlings live, in-person, with an auctioneer this year.

“That was my preference,” Thomson said. “I think you can sell racehorses online. You can sell a lot of horses online, but I just felt like when people are buying yearlings, if there was another way other than online I think we should try that.”

Last week, the LSYS announced that due to COVID-19 and problems making its indoor sale facility at the Western Fair Agriplex work in a social distancing world, that it would sell its yearlings online through (full story here).

Winbak, which stands more stallions (12), than any other Ontario standardbred farm, announced Friday (June 26) that it would sell its 2020 yearlings at its Inglewood, ON farm beginning at noon on Saturday, Oct. 17 at a sale it is calling The Ontario Select Yearling Sale. That night, the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) Super Finals will be held 35 miles away at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Preferred Equine Canada has also announced plans to have an Ontario consignment sell live at Winbak.

To give one an example of how that will impact this year’s LSYS catalogue, last year Preferred and Winbak were the second and third leading consignors, respectively, at the sale. Preferred sold 63 yearlings for $930,500 total and Winbak sold 44 yearlings for $686,500 total. Between the two, they accounted for 107 or 37 per cent of the 291 yearlings sold and $1,617, 000 (26 per cent) of the total sale gross of $6,284,992.

Seelster Farms, LSYS’s leading consignor in 2019, grossed $1,840,000 for 47 yearlings sold.

“We’re not meaning to blow their sale up or do something terrible to them,” Thomson said of LSYS. “I wish them all the luck in the world with what they’re doing, but you just make the best decisions in life that you can for running your business. It’s what you’ve got to do.

Thomson said he thinks achieving maximum value for horses comes from putting them through the ring and auctioning them off in person, even if bidders have to bid online or via telephone.

“I think we’re going to use an auctioneer,” Thomson said. “Even if people can’t come, there will be an auctioneer to push them along and talk about the horses and have a pedigree reader.”

He said Winbak Farm of Ontario, the former location of the famed Armstrong Bros. farm, is well suited for a sale in the social-distancing era.

“They have 180 or 200 stalls there. We don’t want to have (a sale) that big, but we thought that if we doubled our size or maybe a little bit more that it would probably be enough that people would come,” Thomson said of the sale he hopes to cap at 100 or 120 yearlings.

“We’ll have the (web-streamed) show and we’ll have phone lines and we’ll have the online bidding. Hopefully, by that time, they won’t be on lockdown and people will be able to come as well,” Thomson said. “Sure, some people with health problems, no matter what, will not want to be around a lot of people. We still could have a partial lockdown… If nobody can come and they have to do it online, then we’re no worse for the wear, but we’ll still have our horses there and they will have been there for 30 days and we’ll have a list of where the other horses that are going to sell that day will be located. They will probably come in on the Thursday, view Friday and sell on Saturday and be done the sale by 4:00 or 4:15… We’re conscious of the fact that the races are that night.”

The sale entry deadline will be July 17 or at an earlier date if the available slots are full.