Day At The Track

Industry buoyed by positive yearling sale

07:26 AM 23 Sep 2015 NZST
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Standardbred Canada Sales Pavilion
Standardbred Canada Sales Pavilion

An average that was up nearly 70 per cent over the 2014 harness racing sale wasn’t the only thing to like about the Canadian Yearling Sale held Sunday in Hamilton.

David Reid said Ontario standardbred horse breeders have reason for optimism after Sunday’s (Sept. 20) Canadian Yearling Sale at the Standardbred Canada Sales Pavilion at Flamboro Downs in Hamilton, ON.

Reid, whose U.S. -based bloodstock business Preferred Equine Marketing sold nearly half of the 119 yearlings that went through the auction ring, said he thought the sale, “was very good.”

In all, 119 yearlings grossed $2,540,700 for an average price of $21,350 that was up 69.4 per cent from the 2014 sale average of $12,614. Thirty-six fewer horses were sold this year compared to 2014.

“The attendance was terrific and the enthusiasm was great,” Reid said. “There was a lot of interest really from (the preview on) Saturday and it carried right into Sunday. From the sales ring perspective, I thought it was a very encouraging market, better than it had been in the past.

“You have to drill down into the numbers to figure out where the increases came from, but I would say maybe the four components are: supply and demand, currency, the bonus program and the overall strength of the Ontario (Sires Stakes) program. I think people realize it’s a very good program.”

The Ontario Sires Stakes program is one of the most lucrative jurisdictional breeding programs in the global harness racing industry with total purses in 2015 of more than $15 million. This year’s crop of Ontario Sired yearlings is one of the smallest in recent years and that has led to the supply and demand issue. Reid said he thinks the low crop numbers, taken in concert with the fact the Canadian dollar is currently relatively low versus the U.S. dollar means Canadians may be opting to spend more of their money on Ontario Sired yearlings sold in Ontario, rather than traveling to the United States to buy the Ontario Sired yearlings sold there.

Trainer Dustin Jones of Waterdown, ON agreed with Reid.

“The nicer individuals did sell for a good dollar,” Jones said, “but I think the big cause was the supply and demand and not having many out there.”

Reid said he thinks new bonuses for owners of Ontario Sired horses (http://ontariohorseracing.ca/Breeding-Programs/Standardbred-Improvement-Program.aspx) also helped drive the sales numbers up.

In place for 2015 and 2016 is a purse bonus of 20 per cent for owners of Ontario Sired two-year-olds competing in overnight races in Ontario and a bonus of five per cent for owners of Ontario Sired two-year-olds competing in Ontario Sires Stakes events. For 2017, the purse bonus system will be replaced with a $2 million program that will provide pro rata bonuses based on horses’ earnings to owners of Ontario Sired and/or Ontario Bred horses. Owners of a horse that is both Ontario Sired and Ontario Bred will earn double the bonus. Ontario Sired horses are ones sired by registered stallions standing in Ontario. Ontario Bred horses are those produced by Ontario Resident mares that reside in Ontario when enrolled in the Ontario Resident Mare program and remain in the province for a minimum of 180 consecutive days surrounding foaling.

Reid said the positive sales results gives the province’s standardbred breeders, “some numbers to back up what the industry’s been asking for and stressing, which is if you put in a nice program, a viable program, it will keep the industry going. It’s good for employment and it’s good for the province of Ontario if the industry is strong.”

Jones purchased two yearlings at the sale, both are trotters sired by Manofmanymissions including a filly named Jayport Rosita that he bought for $16,000 on behalf of the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association’s (SBOA) New Owner Mentoring Program (http://ontariohorseracing.ca/Latest-News/News-Items/SBOA-program-offers-chance-to-own-a-horse-with-a-l.aspx)

“It’s really nice to see people so keen,” Jones said of his group of new owners being mentored by Hall of Fame driver Bill O’Donnell. “The mare that we bought has a good pedigree. She’s not small, but she’s not a big filly and I thought we made a really good buy. I couldn’t get over how keen the people were and after we bought the filly how happy they were.”

Reid said the breeders for which his Preferred Equine Marketing sold horses were happy, too.

“My pulse from my customers was very good. But it was almost like a sigh of relief. They got a little return on their investment, versus taking a loss,” Reid said.

The next step, he said, was for breeders to reinvest in better quality mares.

“I think what Ontario did with the Sires Stakes program and adding bonus money for Ontario Bred and Ontario Sired horses for overnight races for the younger horses I think is going to encourage breeders maybe to reinvest some money,” Reid said. “I think it’s important for the industry to have a little churn and ultimately it comes from purses. If we can benefit the breeders, there’s going to be horses to race in the province… I think it’s a very important thing to recognize that they need to be paid for what they’re producing.”

Reid and Jones both said breeders selling yearlings on Oct. 25 at the Forest City Yearling Sale at the Western Fair Agriplex in London, ON also have reason to be optimistic.

“I imagine the people selling at Forest City are pretty happy with what they saw at the Canadian Yearling Sale,” Jones said.

Dave Briggs

Standardbred Communications

Ontario Horse Racing

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