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SC Rewind: Sale Of The Century

Published: July 20, 2019 12:55 pm ET

Last Comment: July 24, 2019 3:06 pm ET | 7 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of 'Rewind,' Robert Smith recalls the dispersal sale held by Dr. Brad Gunn 33 years ago back in 1986. It was an event of epic proportions in many regards and one well worth remembering. The title Sale of the Century is not an official one but rather coined for the purposes of this short piece, although probably appropriate.


Dr. Brad Gunn and his wife Agnes were longtime owners and operators of the famed Gunholme Farm, a standardbred breeding establishment located at Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. Dr. Gunn was seldom seen without his signature ten gallon hat. (Photo courtesy of Lloydminster Historical archives)

Horse sales by their very nature are not usually very exciting events. The same thing happens as each entrant in the sale enters the sales ring. A brief introduction, the bidding starts and eventually the horse is sold. After repeating this procedure for as many times as necessary everyone heads for home and hopefully both the buyer and the seller are pleased with the outcome. It does often provide the opportunity for folks to visit with old friends and to even meet new people, all bound together by their common interests.

Once in a very long while a sale will include a sidelight or two that tends to spruce up the proceedings and make for a more memorable experience; such was the case with this particular sale. The scope and size of the offerings as well as the background of the people involved almost automatically deemed that this would be a very special day.

Way back on July 13, 1986 the largest standardbred dispersal sale in Western Canada history saw buyers shell out more than $480,000 for the over 200 head offered that day by Dr. Brad and Agnes Gunn, longtime owners and operators of the famous Gunholme Farm. Although when the upcoming sale was announced it was described as "surprising", the Gunns had been contemplating the rather drastic move for some time. Dr. Gunn, who was 73 at the time, in concert with his wife had decided to sell out and retire from the business that had become so very successful but also increasingly stressful.


Dr. Gunn appears in the early days of his breeding establishment with Adios Pick (Cdn. Sportsman)

The sale started at 10:00 a.m. and auctioneer Ted Umphrey, who alternated with Otto Streberg, established the ground rules at the very start of the sale. He announced "We've got a lot of horses to sell and we are going to sell them fast. NO horse will sell for less than $500 because former rodeo star Bobby Beggs has a standing bid of $500 on every horse in the sale." For those who had hoped to steal some meat-priced bargains they immediately found otherwise. Spirited bidding was soon the order of the day as prospective buyers from all around the country were on hand.

The sale started on a highly emotional pitch as Dr. Gunn led the famous stallion Adios Pick into the sales ring. Oddly enough he was the only horse on the grounds not being offered for sale. The then 32-year-old son of Adios was in his waning years but still the pride and joy of his owner. Together they had authored a new chapter in the history of harness racing in Western Canada. He also paraded Kawartha Tarson, the heir apparent to Adios Pick who was sold that day and returned to Ontario to resume his stud career.


Dr. Gunn is shown leading Adios Pick in front of the large crowd assembled for the dispersal sale

Some seven hours later the sale concluded when the hammer fell for the final time. Just prior to the sale of the last horse, Agnes Gunn stepped to the podium with her husband at her side. With her voice quivering, she tearfully thanked the solemn crowd for coming out and wished everyone the very best of luck with their new purchases. She noted that she and her husband Brad had no regrets concerning their long association with the Standardbred industry. It is doubtful there was dry eye in the entire gathering.

Some of the highlights of the sale included a total gross sale amount of just over $480,000 with an average of $2,390. Accounting for almost half of that total was one buyer, Denton Johnston of Kawartha Farms located near Peterborough, Ont. He bought 48 head which included most of the sale toppers. His purchase included several sons and daughters of Kawartha Tarson, who was also headed back to Johnston's Ontario farm. He bought more than a dozen broodmares, most in foal to Tarson or with foals at their sides.

The top selling broodmare, Senga Adieu was haltered by Johnston for $29,000. Two others, Senga Samantha and Senga Samatra went for $14,000 and $16,000 respectively. A high point of the sale saw a spirited bidding war between Johnston and legendary writer and historian Margaret Neal (acting as an agent for Eastern interests). The object of their "battle" was a Kawartha Tarson two-year-old gelding named Senga Reynard who topped the entire sale at $38,000.

More About Dr. Gunn and Adios Pick

Dr. Gunn for many years worked as a full-time chemist for the Saskatchewan Research Council and spent countless hours commuting between his job in Saskatoon and his farm in Lloydmister. It is difficult to imagine that he had much spare time but he managed to establish Gunholme Farms, a picturesque 2,000 acre spread. Starting out first in the racing end with two mares that he purchased in Ontario, he eventually decided to move into the breeding business. That became a huge chapter in Dr. Gunn's career and the sport of Canadian harness racing and certainly the topic for another day.


Dr. Gunn hops aboard Adios Pick in a paddock at Gunholme Farm

Adios Pick Dies at Gunholme Farm

About six months after the big sale one of the great icons of harness racing in Western Canada, Adios Pick passed away after a brief illness at the age of 33. His final days were spent under the intense care and watchful eye of Dr. Brad Gunn and his wife Agnes, who battled desperately to prolong his life. A foal of 1954, and a full-brother to Dotties Pick, the son of Adios out of the mare Pick Up 3,2:02 M., was purchased as a yearling for $24,000. Winter trained in Florida, he debuted in the powerful Wm. Haughton Stable. After a highly-successful start as a two-year-old, which began with a win in the prestigious Wm. Miller Memorial in late May, lameness curtailed his career. He was lightly-raced the next two seasons, partly in Canada by the Armstrong Stable, and eventually retired. His two-year-old record of 2:08 was his lifetime best. While not successful on the track, he became one of the most prolific and highly recognized sires in Canadian history. Under the guidance of Dr. Gunn at Lloydminster, Sask., who secured him in 1960 at a sale in Pennsylvania for just $6,000, he rewrote the history of much of the next three decades.

There was scarcely a race held in many jurisdictions of Western Canada that did not have at least one and often several entries sired by this great horse. Many carried the name "Senga" which was Agnes spelled in reverse.

Closing notes - Dr. Gunn was fortunate enough to enjoy a number of years in retirement and to see the lasting influence that his efforts produced particularly in Western Canada as well as many other areas. He passed away in July of 2001 at the age of 88 and was inducted into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1981.

Lingering Question - Is the city of Lloydminster located in Alberta or Saskatchewan?

Who Is It? Where Is It?

The following pictures went without any guesses being submitted in last week's Picture Parade. They will appear again this week, each with a clue supplied.

1 - Can you identify the location of this old Maritime racetrack which is no longer in existence? The Nova Scotia background might help.

 


 

2 - Can anyone put a name on at least one of these two fellows as they attend to their horse. This photo came to me many years ago with one person's name and also the name of the horse. The horse was U.S. bred and owned by a gentleman from Matane Quebec who lived to the age of 96 passing away less than three years ago.

 


 

3 - State Fairs in the U.S. have been the scene of a lot of memorable race days witnessed by very large crowds. Can you name the location of the State Fair captured in this great old photograph? Oh, by the way, the State name will do. Reportedly a partial list of drivers in the picture includes "Curly" Smart, Gene Reigle and Tom Holton.

 


 

New This Week - Can you identify this gentleman?

Stay tuned during the coming week for the correct answers.

July 24, 2019 - 3:06 pmThis week's pictures were as

This week's pictures were as follows:

1 - A view from many years ago at Sackville Downs. Thanks to Bill O' for identifying the legendary Ike Moreside leading the field.

2 - Thanks to Pierre for identifying Wellie Belanger of Matane owner of the pictured horse whose name was King Pola. I am guessing he was on the right and have a 50% chance of being correct?

3 - A great shot from the Ohio State Fair with a full grandstand taking in the action at Columbus.

NEW - The pictured gentleman as identified by a couple of readers was Earl Avery of Woodstock N.B. a member of several Halls of Fame.

Also thanks to Mark McLennan for correctly pointing out that Lloydminster is officially claimed by both Alberta and Saskatchewan as it is located right on the border line, literally half in each Province.

Can't help but wonder if anyone in the reading audience was in attendance at the sale???

July 22, 2019 - 1:46 pmJ.A. Cox from Harwood,

Garth Gordon SAID...

J.A. Cox from Harwood, Ontario, a retired army colonel had two pretty good horses by Adios Pick: Jet Adios and Ann Adios, which my father Jack Gordon raced for him in the late sixties. Thanks for all your hard work in bringing back these memories Robert.

July 21, 2019 - 9:02 am#3 Syracuse, NY

John Hill SAID...

#3 Syracuse, NY

July 20, 2019 - 4:10 pmNo. 1 Looks like the early

Bert Clish SAID...

No. 1 Looks like the early days at Sackville Downs.
No. 3 Ohio
No. 4 Earl Avery
Thank you for the great stories and pictures. Regards, Bert Clish

July 20, 2019 - 4:08 pmNo. 2 Mr. Wellie Bélanger

No. 2 Mr. Wellie Bélanger

July 20, 2019 - 3:32 pmRe: Lloyminister - the answer

Re: Lloyminister - the answer is yes.
It is in both provinces - the border runs along the main street, I am told.
The Maritime track might be Sackville Downs.
The person might be Henry Thomas

July 20, 2019 - 1:59 pmQuestion 1: Sackville Downs.

Question 1: Sackville Downs. Eric "Ike" Moreside driving the #1 horse
Last photo: Earle Avery


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