Straatman’s Big Year

Published: October 17, 2017 11:08 am EDT

The last horse had just finished selling early Sunday evening at the inaugural London Selected Yearling Sale and the huge smile on the face of the sale’s co-manager was more than enough to indicate it had been a heck of an auction.

In Ann Straatman’s case, it’s actually been a heck of a year on three other professional fronts.

Apart from the success of the sale — which grossed more than $7.5 million and averaged $24,627 —Seelster Farms, her family’s Standardbred breeding operation in Lucan, Ont., just completed the best yearling sale in its history.

The London sale — a partnership between the Forest City Yearling Sale, managed by Straatman, and the Canadian Yearling Sale operated by Standardbred Canada — had finally come to fruition after many years of lobbying on Straatman’s part.

And Straatman was recently named to the board of the U.S.-based Hambletonian Society that owns and operates two of the sport’s biggest stakes events — the Hambletonian and the Breeders Crown Series, among others.

“It was a surprise and truly a great honour to be included in such a prestigious group,” Straatman said. “We have yet to have our first meeting, but I look forward to meeting the other members, who I’m familiar with through reputation already. To be able to sit around the same table with those great minds is very exciting for me and it’s exciting to be a Canadian on that board.”

Compared to the combined results of the 2016 Forest City and the Canadian Yearling sales, the London sale, held Saturday and Sunday Oct. 14-15 at the Metroland Media Agri-Plex facility at the Western Fair District in London, Ont., was up 16.8 per cent in gross and 5.3 per cent in average.

“How great is that, huh? That is beyond our expectations,” Straatman said.

The difference maker was a Sunday session that was twice as strong as Saturday’s opening session. The Day 2 gross of $5,051,500 was more than double the gross of $2,484,500 from the opening session. The average from Day Two ($26,309) was up 20.7 per cent from the Day One average ($21,793).

Seelster Farms had an outstanding sale, as it grossed $2,283,988 from 49 yearlings sold.

The farm, where Straatman serves as reproduction manager, led all consignors by average ($46,612) and sold the seven highest-priced yearlings. Seelster was responsible for 12 of the 15 highest-priced yearlings sold.

Seelster Farms’ Ann Straatman, pictured with Standardbred Canada President and CEO Dan Gall (SC Photo)

“This is the best sale we’ve ever had, for sure,” Straatman said.

Her sister, Karen Favacho, is Seelster’s farm manager, and their cousin, Tina Marie Howard, is Seelster’s veterinary technician.

“We’re ecstatic. When you’ve grown up doing this… you see it happen to other people and it’s good to see, but when it happens to you and you’re doing it with people that you love and family, it’s even better,” Favacho said of having a record sale.

Seelster sold the session topper on both day one — $150,000 Shadow Play colt Silas Seelster — and day two — the overall sale topper Mohawk Seelster, a Sportswriter colt out of Macapelo Rose that fetched $220,000 from George Millar of Millar Farms of Stouffville, Ont. Favacho said it was an all-time record for a Seelster yearling, surpassing the previous mark of $180,000 from many years ago.

Beyond the $220,000 and $150,000 yearlings, Seelster also sold horses for $115,000, $100,000, $90,000, $85,000 and $82,000.

Straatman said it was a welcome reward for continuing to invest in the business even when the Ontario industry suffered a downturn following the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Program in 2013.

“We didn’t do anything differently. We continued to raise our horses the same way. We upped our broodmare band,” Straatman said. “We are choosing stallions by trying to predict how good they are going to be in two years after we’ve bred them. I think we’ve done a job that people have recognized as quality work and that’s very, very rewarding.”

Seelster will immediately reinvest in their operation and the economy.

“We had already planned to build a new barn and this really does make it a whole lot easier,” Straatman said. “It’s a mare barn — some stalls, some storage, some run-in sheds — all together at a property other than the main farm. So we’re upgrading and this is money that is going to be put to good use, for sure.”

As for continuing to have one strong Ontario yearling sale in the future, Straatman said it was clearly the way to go and the Metroland Media Agri-Plex, where the Forest City Yearling Sale has been held for years, was the facility to use.

“I think everyone can agree that this is the place for a sale,” Straatman said. “The weather was terrible and, boy, you didn’t even know it was raining outside. I think this facility is the best. I think bringing all of the horses together is the best and making a sale that is convenient for buyers and consignors… we can’t stop doing this, this is great.”

Straatman said the strong results, “shows that you can sell good horses in Ontario and get good money for horses. People want to participate in the OSS (Ontario Sires Stakes), so this is the way to do it – get yourself an Ontario-sired horse.”

(Ontario Racing)

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