All-time record smashed for Harrisburg yearling sale

Standardbred Horse Sales Company tops
$44 million in gross at its yearling sale for the first time.

by Ray Cotolo

In the climb back from economic recession spurred by the pandemic shutdown, the Standardbred Horse Sales Company in Harrisburg saw a stabilization of growth in 2022 which propelled the yearling portion of the sale to an all-time high.

From 904 yearlings sold over the three days, the Harrisburg Sale has grossed $44,366,000 to crush the previous record of $42,784,000 set in 2007 when 1,048 horses sold. The 2022 gross also represents a 4.5 per cent increase over last year’s gross of $42,465,500 from 777 yearlings sold in the three days. And though the increase in yearlings sold brought down the average sales price, the growth of the gross as well as an increase in the potential number of racehorses stepping onto the track point to a strengthened course of opportunity for harness racing.

“I can’t thank the consignors, buyers and breeders enough,” said Dale Welk, president/director of operations for the SHSC. “When you have a good sale like that it helps the Mixed Sale because people will be looking for mares for their next crops. We’re down in average, but I think at times there’s a little too much emphasis put on the averages at every sale… If there are happy people – happy consignors and happy buyers – that’s all that matters.

“I think between us and Lexington, we probably sold 200 more yearlings between the two sales so that’s pretty incredible. Like I keep saying, the depth and the quality is unbelievable. We’ve really refined our breed and the breeders have done a wonderful job.”

Wednesday’s (Nov. 9) single-session gross registered $8,636,000 from 398 yearlings sold, which was more than sold in the third session last year when 356 went through the ring for a gross of $9,038,500. The single-session gross plateau represented just a 4.5 per cent dip in year-to-year change. For the three days, the average yearling price in 2022 was $49,077 compared to $54,653 in 2021 – a 10.2 per cent decrease.


The toppers of the Wednesday session both just broke through to six-figure territory. Bill Donovan was first to beat the plateau when he struck the winning bid of $100,000 on Vignette Blue Chip, selling as Hip 769. The Blue Chip Farms-consigned filly from the first crop of Bettors Wish is out of the Rock N Roll Heaven mare Mo Molly Blue Chip, who has foaled one other progeny in $100,000-plus earner Rys Red Rocket.

“I’m from Massachusetts, so that was a big plus that she was dual-eligible,” Donovan said. “To be eligible in New Jersey, where, besides Lazarus and Keystone Velocity there’s not a lot of competition there. In New England, it’s limited so, if she proves herself, it’ll prove to be a bargain when all is said and done in the next two years in the Sires Stakes program.

“That’s primarily why we bought her. There’s four of us in the group – myself, my long-time partner Joe Sbrocco, Craig Henderson and Libby Jones. The four of us, it’s actually the same partnership, we own Just Divine together, who is racing in the Matron [Thursday]. We’ve had horses together and it’s a good group, a fun group to share ownership with. This filly, I think there’s some earnings potential there.

“There’s still a question mark of what kind of a stud [Bettors Wish] is going to be,” Donovan also said, “but looking at her she’s very correct. She’s not real big, but he wasn’t really big. So, hopefully, he’s a good stallion and she’s his first-crop star. We’ll all be happy.”

Wednesday’s other $100,000 sale came from the nod of Linda Toscano, who landed the last bid on Tenacious Hanover – a Hanover Shoe Farms-consigned colt selling as Hip 893. The colt comes from a family with a great granddam who is a half-sister to millionaire Kenneth J, whom Toscano also trained, and O’Brien Award and Breeders Crown winner Percy Blue Chip.

“The mare looks like she’s been a 100 per cent producer. The family has been good to me,” Toscano said. “He’s kind of sharp-looking colt with a really good video, too. He’s very correct and he moves really well. He fit the bill for what we were looking for.”

Regarding the colt’s price on a day where figures occasionally pushed near $100,000, Toscano said “Whenever you see one at the end of the sale that has it all, you know that people are going to reach because it’s the end of the sale season and there really isn’t another chance at this point, so we were prepared to go a little bit more than we thought and we did. We went a little bit further than we thought we’d have to go, but that’s what it took to buy him.”

Toscano purchased the horse as agent for an ownership group which includes Joe Sbrocco, Andy Cohen and Radio Racing, Lorne Polger and John Fodera.

The third-highest sale of the day also came from the Bill Donovan checkbook in Artonic Hanover, a Hanover Shoe Farms-consigned filly selling as Hip 534. The daughter of Betting Line is a half sister to $500,000-plus earners in JJ Flynn and Air Force Hanover and also comes from a family with a granddam who is a half-sister to millionaire Caviart Ally. Artonic Hanover sold to Donovan for $95,000.

Elche Hanover brought the next largest sale of the day at $82,000 when Glengate Farms won the auction. The daughter of Southwind Frank is a three-quarter sister to $500,000 earner Hillexotic and has a bloodline which extends to the great, great granddam, who is a half sister to champion trotter Donerail.

Just below that price sold Long Run Hanover, another Hanover Shoe Farms-consigned filly. Selling as Hip 725 to Nicholas Malcolm of Milton, Ont., the filly is a full sister to stakes-placed Luckycharm Hanover and Lilu Hanover. She also comes from a dam out of world champion Beat The Wheel. That dam is also a half-sister to world champion and millionaire Beatgoeson Hanover.

Of the top five yearlings sold on the day, four came from Hanover Shoe Farm.


Once again, Hanover Shoe Farm reigned over the yearling sale. From 198 yearlings sold, Hanover grossed $14,115,000 to beat their 2021 total of $13,156,000 from 199 yearlings sold. The 2022 gross falls just short of Hanover’s all-time record of $14,371,000 set in 2019 when they sold 233 yearlings.

“To sell $2 million more worth of yearlings with nine less means we’re heading in the right direction ourselves,” said Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky, executive vice president of Hanover Shoe Farms. “The quality of our broodmare band, our stallion roster has increased.

“I’m optimistic and I’ve been optimistic because I usually gauge it by interest and we were very busy in the fairgrounds and had a lot of phone calls. We were very busy here on Sunday, even Monday before the sale. We were taking people’s numbers and asking them to come back because we didn’t have enough people to show horses. That’s really always a good indicator. You don’t know what kind of limits they are putting on, but I felt like people were here to spend money.

“We’re helped by the overall atmosphere of the business. There’s a lot of places racing for a lot of money. People want to have horses and a lot of people have told me, ‘Look, if I’m going to lose money in the stock market, I’d rather buy a horse and have some fun.’ So, I just think everything came together for it to be a good sale. I thank the people that bought yearlings from us and the people that buy yearlings from us every year and have faith in us. Of course, we wish them the best.”

And for Hanover, the work continues into Thursday (Nov. 10) with the first day of the Mixed Sale, which features several broodmares on the selling block.

“We have 20 [broodmares] on the list so I’ll look at them and we’ll get our shortlist for who we’re going to narrow in on,” Dr. Jablonsky said, “but the Harrisburg Mixed Sale is certainly the place where we like to make the high-profile purchases, because, by then, we know how much money we have. It’s really the best place to sell a broodmare and, I think, the best place to buy a broodmare. As a breeder, you know how much money you have to spend, so you gross your amount and you know what you’re expenses are and you know how much you have to reinvest… but you have to reinvest. People are continuously looking for new blood, current blood, so you can’t really rest on your laurels, for sure.”


The layout of the Farm Show Complex shifts in the course of 14 hours to accommodate the hundreds of horses shipping in for the start of the two-day mixed sale today (Nov. 10), which primarily features a variety of young horses, breeding prospects and established broodmares among other things. Friday (Nov. 11) will then feature primarily racehorses, with a plethora of stacked talent slated to enter the ring.

“The broodmares and in-foal broodmares and we’ve got a really strong selection of stallion shares, as well,” said David Reid, president of Preferred Equine. “We’re starting off tomorrow with a couple of really interesting weanlings that will be selling as well.

“Friday, we’ve got a good line up of Fabulous Fillies, there’s four, five, six real crackerjacks in there. Then we’ve got Double Deceiver for the racehorses, a 3-year-old that just won his elimination of the Breeders Crown, second or third in the Final. We’ve got a good core group of racehorses. The numbers are down a little bit, but the quality is up. I think a lot of the horses are racing, and racing competitively, right now. The racehorse market is very strong and I look forward to having a good Friday.”

Welk echoed the sentiment for the Mixed Sale, saying, “I’m really looking forward to the mixed sale. I think we can keep this record thing going, for the gross… and we might pick up a bit on average, too. We have 48 Fabulous Fillies. I think, right now, we have three Outs for them, but we have less Outs than we’ve ever had for a Thursday at this point. I’m sure we’ll have a few tonight.

“We probably have five or six horses that are racing in the Matron [Thursday] night that are in the sale on Friday. So, you always wonder because they’ve got to get them here, but that’s why we kind of give them an extra hour each day. Our numbers are down about 60 total for the two days, so that cuts about an hour out, so we’re still going to be out of here at a decent hour tomorrow night and Friday night.”

The record numbers for the Standardbred Horse Sale come as Welk wraps his second year at the helm of the operation.

“I guess I couldn’t have taken over at a better time – last year and then this year,” Welk said. “But I’m not going to take the credit, the credit belongs to the consignors and breeders and buyers and the whole staff, everybody here at the building.”