For the second consecutive, the selected sale of Canadian-bred yearlings, held by the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (Ontario Division) at the Woodbine sale pavilion, resulted in a drastic decline in gross, average, and median price.
Ontario's breeders, and the entire Thoroughbred and Standardbred industries, were slammed hard in 2012 when, in the spring, the provincial government and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation halted the lucrative slots-at-racetracks revenue sharing program.
Last fall's CTHS yearling sale was hit with large declines (20% drop in average price at the select session) as the industry was shrouded by an uncertain future.
And a year later, despite a lot more hope on the horizon thanks to new provincial leadership, the yearling market continues to struggle.
On Sept. 3, the newly tagged Canadian Premier yearling sale's select session dropped nearly $1 million in gross, down 23.8% to $3,003,000 from $3,942,000.
The average for 137 yearlings sold (down from 155 sold in 2012) was $21,920, down 13.8% from $25,932 last year. The number of buy-backs skyrocketed to 75 from 52 and the median fell from $18,000 to $16,000.
These are scary times for Ontario's breeders who watched some top-of-the-line yearlings sell well but the others struggle to get bids.
The Ontario government's transitional panel, assigned to help the horse industry adjust to the end of its share of slot revenues, has done little except release reports and suggestions. The province's new Premier, Kathleen Wynne, has pledged that the industry will be part of the gaming expansion, and yet nothing has been formally announced.
"We've now gone through two complete sales without having any program in place for our industry (for the future)," said Glenn Sikura, president of the CTHS and owner of Hill 'n' Dale Farms in Aurora, Ontario.
"Seemingly the transitional panel and the government understand the urgency of having a plan (for funding) and yet we are still at a point more than a year later with no plan."
Only two horses reached six figures at the sale. Topping the auction was a colt by Canadian turf champion Perfect Soul out of the Seeking the Gold mare Tapatina. A half brother to Del Mar Oaks (gr. I) winner Internallyflawless and a full brother to 2013 winner Seekingthediamond, the colt was bought for $170,000 by Cudney Stables and partner. Richard Hogan, agent, consigned the colt for breeder Charles Fipke.
Rob Cudney has raced horses in Canada for decades but the stable is based in Versailles, Ky. The stable recently celebrated a stakes win with another offspring of Perfect Soul, My Perfect Ten, who won the Ellis Park Turf Stakes on July 6.
Cudney purchased two other horses during the auction, a Bluegrass Cat colt out of Stroke the Tiger (by Smart Strike ) for $40,000 from Cara Bloodstock (Bernard McCormack), agent, and a Badge of Silver —Dynaco (by Dynaformer) colt from Hogan, agent for Tall Oaks Farm, for $39,000.
The second highest price of the sale was the $100,000 bid by owner Rolph Davis and trainer Robert Tiller for a strapping chestnut colt from the first crop of two-time Canadian champion older horse Marchfield. Sold by Cara Bloodstock for breeder Michael Deegan, the colt is out of the unraced mare Good Religion, by Giant's Causeway .
Marchfield, who was bred and raced by Eugene Melnyk, stood at Park Stud in Orangeville, Ontario, until he was sold this summer to South African interests.
Another Marchfield colt, out of the winning Forest Camp mare Clayton's Lass, brought a bid of $80,000 from trainer Reade Baker, agent for Bear Stables Ltd. The colt was sold by Michael C. Byrne (owner of Park Stud), agent.
The top priced filly at the sale was a Where's the Ring —Beltane (by Unusual Heat) yearling, bred by Paradox Farm and sold by Hogan, agent, for $65,000 to trainer Gail Cox, agent.
While the number of prospective buyers was on the light side, those looking found the good horses too expensive and the rest not worth a risk.
"It's the same story," said Frank Romeo, whose family's Terra Farms bred and raced 2010 Queen's Plate (Can-I) winner Big Red Mike. "The ones you like the best are not in your price range; the others are not good enough to bid on."
Romeo noted that the upcoming Keeneland September yearling sale had a number of Ontario-breds cataloged.
The open session of the Canadian-bred sale is Sept. 7 beginning at 5 p.m., offering 131 yearlings.