Last year it was strength in the middle market for Canada’s biggest yearling sale, the Woodbine select and preferred auction of Canadian-bred yearlings, hosted by the Ontario division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.
This year, breeders and consignors are hoping for a big boost in buyer power to bolster the overall market and help the auction rebound from last year’s dips in gross and average price.
The selected session of this year’s sale is Sept. 2 at the Woodbine sales pavilion beginning at 3 p.m. with 243 offerings. The preferred session of 249 yearlings is Sept. 6, also at 3 p.m.
There was good news reported in the days before the sale as the continent’s leading trainer, Steve Asmussen, was expected to attend the sale. Asmussen, who has raced a string of horses at Woodbine for the first time this season cited a desire to bolster his stock with Ontario-bred and sired runners as a reason for the trip.
"It will be mostly a look and see to get a feel for the horses up there but I could be buying," said Asmussen. "(Ontario-breds) are totally lacking from our stable. Something that I learned (about racing at Woodbine) is that there a very big difference (in purse money for Ontario-bred versus non-Ontario-breds)."
Asmussen was referring to the new bonus plans implemented this year into Woodbine purses that award an extra 10% (soon to increase to 20%) to Ontario-breds.
In 2007, the median price for the selected session jumped 18% from $27,000 to $32,000 while the average price fell just over 7% from $43,000 to $40,000.
"Hopefully a lot of the new horsepeople to Woodbine this year, folks like Steve Asmussen, will see the rationale to buying a Canadian-bred," said Glenn Sikura, president of the Ontario C.T.H.S. and national director of the sales committee.
Sikura, whose Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency led all consignors by gross in 2007 has another large group of yearlings offered.
"There are horses in my consignment this year that in other years I may not have sold at Woodbine," said Sikura.
Among the Hill ‘n’ Dale yearlings is a filly by the recently deceased Vindication out of the stakes winner Strike Me Lucky, plus youngsters by Saint Liam, Stormy Atlantic , Roman Rulerand Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando.
An interesting entrant is Sky Mesa colt out of Iron Feather, by Crafty Prospector, that Sikura bought in utero for $125,000. The mare’s You and I 6-year-old, Are You Serious, has recently taken a new lease on life in the United States this year. He has five wins in his last seven starts, including the $100,000 Harvey Arneault Memorial Stakes at Mountaineer Park in which he ran a 105 Beyer Figure.
Richard Hogan, who sold last year’s sales topper, a Peace Rulescolt named Burgis for $195,000, is always a leading consignor, and he has 32 yearlings in the select session.
"I’m looking forward to a good sale," said Hogan. "Really, there has never been a better time to buy a Canadian-bred yearling and with the huge money in purses plus the extra money for Ontario-breds, the numbers are there."
Hogan said yearlings by first-year stallions Mobiland Consolidator, leading first crop sire Tomahawk and proven studs like Brahms and Gold Caseare just some of the top prospects.
Windfields Farm, which will close down its commercial business in November, will offer its last group of client-yearlings; Gail Wood has another blockbuster group including a colt by exciting first-year sire Candy Ride; Sue Foreman, Huntington Stud Farm, Gardiner Farms, Mike Byrne’s Park Stud and Shannondoe Farm round out the top 10 consignors from last year who are back for 2008.