Despite selling during a pandemic, Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s 2020 auction in Timonium, MD concluded Saturday with the combined average of $34,769, ranking it as the fourth highest in the last 19 years.
by Dave Briggs
Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s (SHSC) five-day auction at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, MD concluded Saturday afternoon (Nov. 7) with a combined yearling and mixed sale average of $34,750 down 23 per cent from the 2019 auction in Harrisburg, PA, but higher than the average all 15 years from 2002 through 2016. That said, the gross of $42,360,000 was the lowest in at least 19 years. Modern electronic records go back to 2002.
After the yearling sale concluded Thursday (Nov. 5) with a gross that failed to reach $30 million for the first time since 2002, the mixed sale concluded with a gross of $12,844,000 that was also its lowest total over that same time span.
The combined gross is down $25,373,000 (37 per cent) from the 2019 auction in Harrisburg, PA when SHSC recorded a record average of $45,209 and a gross of $67.5 million that was the second highest in its long history behind only the $70,228,377 grossed in 2007 (a year in which 541 more horses/stallion shares were sold than in 2019).
This year’s combined median was $29,000, down from $25,000 in 2019.
The number of horses/stallion shares sold was down 277 to 1,219 in 2020, which is also the lowest number sold since 2002. A sharply lower number of horses/stallion shares sold had an impact on the gross, as did the COVID-19 pandemic and a change of venue to Timonium from the sale’s long-standing home in Harrisburg at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Complex, an entirely indoor facility shuttered by the state during the pandemic.
“There were so many people that couldn’t come and so many people that wanted to come and I believe there were a lot of folks who were reluctant to participate as much or perhaps even at all, simply because they couldn’t get here to look at the animals,” said sale president and CEO Pete Spears.
“I think Harrisburg is a facility that is very tough to equal. Everything is under one roof. It’s very conveniently located, it doesn’t require tents, it’s free from the elements. I hope we’ll be able to return (to Harrisburg in 2021), but, if not, we’re very grateful to have Timonium as an alternative.”
As for the two-day mixed sale, specifically, 446 horses/stallion shares were sold, which is the lowest total, by far, since 2002 and is off 217 from 2019. The mixed sale average of $28,798 is lower than each of the last five years, but higher than all 13 years between 2002 and 2014.
“A $28,000 average for the mixed sale is very much in line with most recent years’ mixed sale average,” said Spears.
The median was $18,000, down from $22,000 in 2019.
But, it is important not to write too much into year-to-year comparisons of mixed sale numbers. The numbers provided are just intended to give a snapshot of each year and how the business numbers fared against previous years. Mixed sales are only as strong as the horses entered. Some years there are major farm dispersals, such as in 2019 when White Birch Farm dispersed its remaining breeding stock and added a $4.5 million boost to sale totals. This year, there were no major dispersals at the SHSC sale.
“I think we get over-analytical sometimes with things that are really apples to peaches,” Spears said. “Last year itself was an amazingly high aberration, so I think (this year’s) mixed sale is largely interpreted as a return to a normal average year and the gross was down because we had so many fewer horses. Nothing very complicated.”
The results could have been better, of course, but Spears said the first priority was getting the horses sold in the best way possible considering the challenges.
“I’m just grateful that we were able to meet our commitment to our consignors to actually hold a live sale and help them get their horses sold and help them raise the capital to get back in the game next year and hopefully this crazy virus stuff will be resolved enough that we can resume reasonably normal lives again,” Spears said.
“(Operations manager) Dale Welk and our operations people had tremendous challenges, first the massive rain and then the gale force winds and collapsed tent and a very spread out plan for all of the horses… all the new wiring and electronics that had to be put out.
“My office staff had to deal with a brand new online bidding system. We sold about 135 horses online, all of which took a tremendous amount of extra time to be able to coordinate not only during the registration process, but to make sure there were people available to come and settle for the horses and pick them up and ship them. That was our staff that put in all of that extra time to make that happen, so I think they did a fabulous job.”
Saturday’s session was topped by Hip #1817, trotting mare Sister Sledge (Father Patrick—Behindclosedoors) who fetched $265,000 from Swedish bloodstock agent Robert Lindstrom out of the Preferred Equine consignment. Lindstrom purchased the mare for the Swedish connections that campaigned Propulsion.
Lindstrom was the day’s biggest buyer ($487,000, total, spent on six purchases) and Preferred was the day’s leading consignor by gross ($3,170,000).
Northwood Bloodstock sold the next two highest priced racehorses on the day — Hip #1400 Philly Hanover, a Captaintreacherous filly out of Paris Hanover, sold for $225,000 to Joe Parisi. Hip #1370 Love Muffin, an Andover Hall filly out of Pine Yankee, sold for $200,000 to Steve Stewart of Hunterton Farms.
Preferred was the leading consignor for the mixed sale (with $5,078,000 in gross sales) and the second leading consignor for the combined yearling and mixed sale $8,821,000 for 260 horses/stallion shares sold). Hanover Shoe Farms led all consignors for the combined sale with $12,091,000 in gross sales for 257 horses sold.
The combined sale’s top buyer remained Serge Godin’s Determination Stable of Montreal. Determination spent $1,559,000, total, to acquire 12 yearlings. Burke Racing Stable LLC was next with $975,000 spent to acquire 18 horses. Lindstrom was a close third with $967,000, total, spent to buy 13 horses.
Despite COVID-19 travel challenges, Canadians buyers still made up about 20 per cent of the sale with $8,199,000 spent on 216 horses/stallion shares. Europeans made up 4.2 per cent of the gross sales. As for specific states, New Jersey ($8,508,000, 162) residents outbid those from Pennsylvania ($6,231,000, 234), New York ($3,879,000, 130), Florida ($3,415,000, 59) and Ohio ($2,918,000, 122).