London Classic Yearling Sale concludes with record average and an incredible gross of $6.6 million

The average of $35,682 was almost as notable as a gross that was $350,000 higher than the last in-person sale in London despite 105 fewer horses being sold.

by Dave Briggs

The inaugural London Classic Yearling Sale was a smash by most measures, but this figure stands out: the gross of $6,637,000 was higher than the most recent in-person London sale gross of $6,285,000 in 2019 — even with 105 fewer horses being sold this year.

“I’m just really elated with the numbers that we had and I am kind of surprised that they were as strong as they were,” said first-year sale manager Greg Blanchard.

The two-day sale concluded Wednesday (Oct. 19) at the Western Fair Agriplex in London, ON.

Prior to this year, the auction was called the London Selected Yearling Sale and it was operated by a consortium of Ontario breeders. The new incarnation is owned and operated by the Western Fair Association. The London Virtual Yearling Sale was online only in both 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s sale grossed $6,637,000 for 186 yearlings. The average of $35,682 is a record going back to 2017 when the sale debuted as the London Selected Yearling Sale. This year’s average is up 65 per cent from $21,598 in 2019, up 58 per cent from $22,644 in 2018 and up 45 per cent from $24,627 in 2017.

“The only real comparatives that we had were the last in-person sales in 2018 and 2019. Again, I was confident coming in, but it was nice to see that that confidence was justified,” Blanchard said.

“I think we were really able to capitalize on the return of an in-person sale. After two years of not being able to host one in person, and now returning here – as a new sales company — with that absence, I think there was a natural excitement. I think people really supported us… I really want to thank everyone for the support, from our team to the consignors to the buyers, of course. It was a success, to say the least, so I couldn’t be happier.”

Even in comparison to the last two years when the sale was online only, this year’s auction was up 20 per cent from the 2021 average of $29,842 and up 10 per cent from the 2020 virtual average of $32,480.

Gross is difficult to compare to recent years due to fluctuating numbers of horses selling. This year, 186 yearlings sold compared to 146 a year ago and 102 in 2020. Comparing to the last three in-person auctions in London in 2019, 2018 and 2019, this year’s number of yearlings was down by 105, 126 and 120, respectively.

“The field, the crowd, the results, the pulse, the gross… for the first live sale since the pandemic, I think it was very successful,” said Preferred Equine’s David Reid, who sold the most yearlings (51) over two days. “From a Preferred point of view, I thought the sale was very good. I think most of my customers were all satisfied with the sale. I thought the sale was well-attended and I thought it was a very healthy marketplace over the two days.

“People were happy to attend a live auction. I thought the audience was terrific and I think the marketplace was extremely fair.”

Preferred was the second leading consignor by gross ($1,397,196). Seelster Farms topped the list with total sales of $1,963,035 for 37 yearlings sold. Seelster’s average of $53,055 was also the highest for consignors followed by Century Spring Farm ($41,273), Erinwood Equine Inc. ($39,211) and Dean and Ashley Wilson ($36,286), who were the third leading consignors by gross ($1,270,010).

“Part of the feedback that I got over the two days was about the atmosphere,” Blanchard said. “People really enjoyed it and they thought there was a lot of buzz in the air. That was fantastic and it was as much of a great social gathering as it was a horse sale. That’s kind of what we were going for. We want to create a sale that people want to attend in person every year and to enjoy the venue and enjoy seeing all their colleagues in the industry and being able to enjoy the city of London at the same time. It was nice to get that feedback, as well as seeing the performance of the sale itself.”

The change this year to a Tuesday-Wednesday sale rather than the traditional weekend sale sessions, likely helped drive business, Blanchard said.

“I’d like to think so, because that was our intent. I felt that there was a better opportunity for people to take a couple of days and come down with a weekday format versus the traditional weekend format. Traditionally, the Saturday would land on Super Final night, so you had a lot of people leaving later in that session to get to Mohawk, whether it be owners, trainers, drivers.

“I think we saw more of those people sticking around and staying for both days, which is what we wanted. I felt like having the sale after the Super Final was great because you’ve got the Super Finals fresh in everyone’s mind and you’ve got key updates to certain yearlings coming in and, frankly, you’ve got some owners that have a little bit more money in their pocket to spend. I really felt like that would work well and I think it did.”

Eight yearlings were sold for $100,000 or more — six on Tuesday and two more on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the session-topper was Hip 118 Masstercraft, a Muscle Mass colt out of Pretty Crafty purchased by Steve Colvin of Hanover, ON from the Dean and Ashley Wilson consignment for $110,000.

Hip 104 Northern Looker, a Muscle Mass colt out of Shestheonetowatch, sold for $105,000 to Charalambos Christoforou from the Erinwood Equine consignment.

The five highest-priced yearlings for the sale all sold on day one:

Topping the sale was Hip 38 Heist Seelster, a Resolve colt out of Hollywood Beauty that sold for $165,000 to Gestion Zane of Laval, QC from the Seelster Farms consignment. Seelster also sold the second-highest yearling of the day — Hip 73 Liege Seelster, a Bettors Delight colt out of Los Angeles that was purchased by Mac Nichol of Burlington, ON for $125,000.

Dean and Ashley Wilson consigned the next two highest-priced yearlings. Hip 77 Munchie Muscles, a Muscle Mass colt out of Lady Bling, sold for $122,000 to Gregg McNair of Guelph. Anthony Haughan, agent, from Cambridge bought Hip 69 Muscone, a Muscle Mass filly out of Jangone for $110,000.

Hip 84 Salem Seelster, a Muscle Mass filly out of Speak Of The Devil, also sold for $110,000. She was purchased by Determination Stable of Montreal from the Seelster consignment.

The final six-figure yearling was Hip 96 Century Komodo, a Bettors Delight colt out of Michelons Filly purchased by Scott McEneny of Waterdown, ON from Century Springs Farm for $100,000.

Five of the eight highest-priced yearlings sold were offspring of Muscle Mass, who was second among stallions in average at $66,368 for 18 sold. Resolve was the leading sire by average at $73,600 for five sold. Bettors Delight was the leading pacing stallion, average $49,765 for 17 sold.

Trotting colts were in the highest demand. By gender and gait, the sale broke down as follows:

Trotting colts: $52,310 for 31 sold

Trotting fillies: $39,444 for 28

Pacing colts: $33,114 for 71

Pacing fillies: $29,035 for 57

“Something I was really happy with was the production, the live-stream production,” Blanchard said of the feed produced by Curtis MacDonald’s Cujo Entertainment. “Curtis, I work closely with him (on COSA-TV broadcasts) so I was fully confident that he could do something excellent for us and I’m really happy with what he delivered.”

As for what he learned in his first year running a horse sale, Blanchard said it wasn’t one big thing, it was many small things.

“I think what I learned most was just how much goes into putting on a sale and the months and months of preparation with all the different steps, the different timelines that you have to hit. So, it was a daunting task and I probably didn’t know what I was getting myself into, to be honest. But again, I had tremendous support. I know (previous sale manager) Ann Straatman and her team were fantastic to help us and passing along information that they knew would be helpful to us and being there from time to time when we needed to consult them and get some help on things,” Blanchard said.

“Also, the support of the consignors along the way. A lot of them understood that it was a new sales company, but they were happy that we were stepping up to take it on and really were quite supportive all the way leading up to the sale and during the sale. So, to see them all do well was really rewarding for us as well.”

Blanchard said the sale is a good fit with the Western Fair Association’s other offerings.

“We’re an Agricultural Society and we have strong ties to the horse racing industry in operating the racetrack, so it was nice to be able to step in and conduct the yearling sale in what, we feel, is the nicest facility anywhere in Canada… The fact that it fit our mandate, and the fact that it supports an industry that we’re so closely aligned with, we just thought that it made sense and we’re committed to doing it for a long time.”