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Andrew, Meridian Drive Outreach

Published: September 10, 2016 10:54 am ET

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Meridian Farms continues to set the pace on tying harness racing and the Standardbred industry to community outreach and goodwill.

There are two yearlings up for auction this month, and both will have 100 per cent of the sale proceeds going to charity. On Sunday (Sept. 10) Meridian will sell Blink And Gone as Hip 18 in the 2016 ASHA Yearling Sale.

"We had proposed a yearling called Cool Jay," Meridian's Bill Andrew told Trot Insider. "He's a first crop Wink N Atcha, a half-brother to Cool Cowboy...three-year-old champion out here a couple of years ago."

Andrew noted that the yearling was withdrawn from the sale for a few reasons. He scraped himself up in the paddock prior to the sale and also got sick.

"He was just a little bit later than the rest of them recovering from the virus so I just said I don't think it's fair we put the horse in the sale."

As a result, Meridian selected Blink And Gone -- a half-sister to last year's ASHA Yearling Sale topper Beer Bribe as a replacement.

"She's also a Wink N Atcha out of a mare called Bridgette Hanover. Her first foal last year sold for $37,000 and was the sale topper so we hope this one goes reasonably as well."

Looking to raise awareness and benefit some of the less prominent charities, Meridian -- in concert with ASHA and Century Downs -- has selected five local organizations to share in the proceeds on Blink And Gone. Those charities are Olds and District Hospice Society, Airdrie and District Victims Assistance Society, Autism Speaks Canada, Didsbury Fire Rescue and the Olds and District Christmas Angels Society. All of these groups were special guests at Century Downs over the course of the meet.

"What we did this year, something a little bit different too, we bought coolers at Red Shores at Charlottetown and at Century Downs," noted Andrew, "and what we do is we invite the charitable group down to the track, give them a bit of a day at the track and then have them present the cooler and just advise them that we're selling this particular yearling at the sale. That's gone over very well, particularly with the charities...they get an opportunity to get introduced to racing and anything we can do to get more people to the track is the key for our business."

Andrew also credits the efforts of ASHA Executive Director Fred Gillis for his efforts working with these new groups during their day at the track.

"He's had some of the groups or the reps for the groups out on the double seated jog cart and things like that. You can't buy that type of outreach into the community," continued Andrew. "I think we create two things: we create some more fans of our sport and secondly we show that our business is not strictly business and I think that's important too."

Meridian will sell A Pure Heart at the Atlantic Classic Yearling Sale in Crapaud, PEI on October 7. His proceeds will support the fire department in Crapaud.

"Last year we sold a yearling in Truro at their sale called Ashes To Ashes. The deal last year, we helped out a fire department in the Bible Hill area, which is where the racetrack is located in Truro, and we sold him for $5,000. He broke his maiden [on Monday] in 59 and change.

"This one, we wanted to do something on PEI so we contacted in the fire department in the village of Crapaud, which is where we hold the sale, and we asked them if we could sell a yearling on their behalf," continued Andrew. "I wanted a good yearling, I also wanted to sell a trotter. So we've got a first crop Armbro Barrister out of a mare called Apeachtoremember. She was a pretty good mare in Ontario racing primarily at London and on the smaller tracks. Her first foal. I believe, as far as a trotter, this one will be well received."

A chestnut yearling, Andrew considers A Pure Heart both a good-looking and very "striking" yearling. He recalls that the bidding on both charity yearlings from 2015 was very spirited and expects the same again in 2016.

"I expect that it helps on the sale of the horse to have the charities involved. And certainly the charities appreciate it."

The 2015 Cam Fella Award winner recognizes that his efforts are appreciated but feels harness racing is just scraping the surface of what's possible in this arena.

"It's certainly bigger than it was but there's a lot more to see it more and more, and the horsemen have always been good to pass the hat and help people out but I think you need to weave that into a little bit of recognition by the community and a little but of outreach to the community. I think you've got a winning combination if you do that."

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