Sparked by a lively bidding war between trainer Mark Casse and a partnership of Danny Dion, of Bear Stables Ltd., and John Brnjas's Colebrook Farms, a chestnut colt by English Channel sold for $275,000 to top the Sept. 4 second session of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (Ontario) selected yearling sale.
The price was the highest for a yearling in Canada since Classic Runaway (Always a Classic–Runaway Babe) sold for $320,000 in 2000.
The two day selected session was held Sept. 3-4 at the sales pavilion at Woodbine Racetrack in Rexdale, Ontario, and will be followed by a preferred session Sept. 8.
The sales topper, sold by Richard Hogan, as agent for breeder Ivan Dalos, was Hip No. 225, close to the end of the auction. He is the second foal of the course-record setting stakes winner In Return, by Horse Chestnut.
"We thought he was the best horse in the sale,” said Dion. “Now we just have to hope for some luck."
As one of the leading owners in Canada the last five years, Dion purchased five other yearlings from the two select sessions for a total of $537,000. Dion signed the ticket for the sales topper himself but confirmed later that Brnjas was a co-owner. The colt will winter at Colebrook in Uxbridge, Ontario. While Dion has several trainers in Ontario and Brnjas's daughter Ashlee trains the family's horses, no final decision had been made as to the colt's trainer.
The Brnjas family has one of the top stallion stations in Ontario and has enjoyed a prosperous 2012 with a litany of top runners by its stallion Niigon.
The sales topper helped the select auction complete a better two-day select sale following a rough first day.
The second session saw 107 yearlings sell for $2,941,000 for an average of $27,486, down from the $34,815 average paid for 100 horses in 2011. The session median dropped to $18,000 from $25,000.
Overall, the 155 selected yearlings sold during the two-day select sessions realized a gross of $3,942,000 for an average of $25,432, down 21.7% from 2011 when 148 yearlings sold for $4,803,500 for an average of $32,456.
The overall median was $18,000, down from $25,000 in 2011.
Yearlings not sold showed an improvement with 52 this year as opposed to 71, representing a decrease of 21.7% over last year’s sale.
Hogan admitted to being a bit surprised at the price of the colt, given the uncertainty in the Ontario horse industry currently. The provincial government has planned to eliminate the slots-at-racetracks program effective next spring, leaving 17 Ontario tracks wondering how the business will survive.
“I thought he would bring as much as a horse could in this climate,” said Hogan, a longtime leading consignor at the local sale. “And when you get two owners (Casse, who was bidding for leading Woodbine owner John Oxley, and the Dion/Brnjas tandem) it's a perfect storm.”
The second highest price of the sale came during the second session when a colt from the first crop of Canadian champion Leonnatus Anteas was purchased by A & L Racing Stables Inc. for $120,000. The colt is out of the 2002 Canadian champion turf female Chopinina, and was also consigned by Richard G. Hogan, Agent.
The Ontario division of the CTHS put forth a strong marketing venture in the weeks leading up to the sale, promoting the success of Ontario-breds this year.
“Even with the challenges surrounding the current horse racing industry, the results of this sale are a strong indication that our breeders can produce quality Ontario-breds that can run anywhere,” said auctioneer Ryan Mahan. “I was braced for a challenging two days, and I am appreciative of our consignors and applaud the commitment of our buyers. The atmosphere of the sale was spirited and buoyant throughout, indicting resolve despite the current climate.”
The open session of the 2012 Canadian-Bred Yearling Sale starts Saturday, Sept. 8 at 3 p.m, with a total of 156 cataloged. The yearlings may be previewed Sept. 7, starting at 9 a.m. The open sale can be viewed live via a webcast on the CTHS website.