The feedback from the Canadian Yearling Sale's consignors, combined with the strong sales numbers, gives more signs of optimism for the harness racing industry.
Brian Eadie of Tri Star Farms was very pleased with his consignment, and even more pleased that two of his yearlings sold to repeat clients.
"I thought it was a good sale and the guys were spending money this year," said Eadie. "You have to have the animal, buyers know the difference. When you have a good one, it's really nice to have the people coming around."
Twinbrook's Tammy McNiven echoed Eadie's sentiment that the buyers were willing to pay for quality.
"As usual, which is a trend year after year, the good ones still bring good money and the same people want the top horses. That's why we have a strong top end."
Twinbrook only had two Ontario Sired 2016 yearlings after the farm cut back its broodmare band due the uncertainly of the industry when the slots at racetracks program was cancelled in 2012. Looking to add some stock, they pinhooked a Big Jim weanling that sold in the U.S. in 2015 and sold him in Ontario. Jet Grey was purchased for $10,000 and sold on Sunday for $45,000.
"If you have the product they want, buyers aren't afraid to dig in their pockets for what they have to pay."
Icy Stables consigned sales topper Brunos From Mars but Icy's Jim Laird noted that the 10-horse consignment was very popular among the prospective buyers.
"Every single horse was taken out of its stall several times so it was very busy, and there was a variety of trainers and owners looking at all the individuals several times," noted Laird. "It was a busy consignment and the crowds were good.
"The weather wasn't very good on Saturday but these horses were shown in the alleyways all day long," continued Laird. "Sunday was an excellent day, the sun came out and the crowds were unbelievable."
Eadie and McNiven were also both amazed with the size of Sunday's crowd.
"The crowds were there, it was unbelievable...even through the rain on Saturday, we were steady all day long," said McNiven. "And then the beautiful weather on Sunday, I don't know who Heather prays to but whoever it is keep going because every year we have really nice weather on sale day."
In front of a capacity crowd on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, 144 yearlings entered the sales ring at the SC Sales Pavilion and grossed $2,972,200. That represents a 16.98 percent increase from 2015. The average dipped slightly but was still very strong at $20,640, with 25 more horses sold than the previous year.
"I already know that we have about 10 individuals for next year to sell, and now that the sale's done we're looking forward to next year already," said Laird. "We can't wait."
"We were absolutely thrilled with the sale once again and this week we'll start looking at what we have [to sell there] next year," stated McNiven. "We only had the three Ontario Sired so we left them all here, we didn't take any to Harrisburg because the dollar is still at 30 percent so it's still hard for people to buy against the Americans. We thought we'd do better here and I don't think we could do better anywhere else."
Laird wasn't lacking in praise for Standardbred Canada's Sales team.
"The facility, the sales ring, all of their help, every question that you asked Standardbred Canada was there for you, they made my job easier," stated Laird. "Heather Reid, anything that we asked and anything that she helped us with, it was answered quickly. We were dealing with very professional people there."
SC's President & CEO Dan Gall took in his first Canadian Yearling Sale and heaped praise on the sale staff.
"I want to thank the Standardbred Canada team as all hands were on deck this weekend to assist Heather Reid in pulling off a very successful Yearling Sale," said Gall. "We had great attendance and we are so happy for the breeders and consignors and we wish nothing but the best of luck to all those who took home their yearlings.
"There were some really good looking horses with strong pedigrees in this year's auction. A big thank you to all volunteers and those participated to make it such a strong sale."
After getting involved with Standardbreds in the early part of the decade, Icy Stables' Jim & Kim Laird stuck with it after the cancellation of the slots-at-racetracks deal.
"We have five broodmares ourselves and we'll have five foals this year. We've added to our collection a little bit and I'm glad that we've added because after seeing these crowds and these people bidding on these horses that want these individuals and want to continue growing the business, it's a really good feeling for us to want to invest and keep going in this business."
The success of the consignment speaks to the dedication that the Lairds and breeders across the continent selflessly apply to their yearling crops year after year.
"The work and the time and the effort that goes into the business by the people who raise and sell these horses...my wife has a full-time job, she comes home, she's in that barn until 11 or 12 at night grooming and putting time into these horses," noted Laird. "I don't think people realize the time and effort that's put into all these individuals for two to three minutes in a sales ring that's going to predict what you've made for this foal."
Kadabra boasted the highest average among all stallions. His nine yearlings averaged almost $40,000, just shy of that mark at $39,444. On the pacing side, Mach Three was strongest with 17 yearlings averaging $32,676.
A full breakdown of sale and sire averages is available on the following pages: