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London Selected Sale Goes Virtual

Published: June 20, 2020 3:28 pm ET

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In a release issued on Saturday, June 20, the London Selected Yearling Sale announced that the 2020 edition of the sale would be conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For this year, the sale will be rebranded as the London Virtual Yearling Sale and will be conducted in concert with OnGait.

Sale manager Ann Straatman told Trot Insider on Saturday afternoon that the plan is currently for horses to sell every 10 minutes during the auction period. Forty horses will close each day, with those horses open for bidding for 48 hours, then start closing noon on the second day and close every 10 minutes after that. Horses will sell virtually from noon until 6:30 p.m. each afternoon.

Straatman is also extremely cognizant of the fact that the usual venue for the sale -- the Metroland Media Agriplex in London, Ont. -- is currently being used as a field hospital by the London Health Sciences Centre.

"Currently, it's a field hospital and they have asked to extend their lease until the end of September," said Straatman. "Again, preparing for if there is a surge or a second wave in cases. It was a big endeavour for them to turn it into a hospital. They're even using the stalls as dividers for each room."

As of right now there are 280 horses entered in the London sale but that number is subject to change if the consignors aren't comfortable with the new format. As the "first one to jump into the pool," Straatman knows the concept may take some people some time to accept.

"We have 280 horses entered in the sale. But of course, at the time when I received the applications, we were still hoping to go with Plan A which was a live auction at our facility. But, as I promised when I took the applications, I've had good communication will all the consignors...the future is unknown and certainly our hope and plan was to go with Plan A, but if we couldn't do that and there was a format change, all consignors and owners would have the opportunity to withdraw without penalty if they felt that the new virtual way was not for them.

"I have given consignors until June 30th to decide if they would like to stay or if they are going to withdraw, and I'll have a definite number by the end of the month. We're currently at 280 and I hope to keep them all."

Trying to keep some semblance of familiarity in this new normal, the sale will still have a traditional printed and mailed sale catalogue and that book will receive its usual distribution.

"We are still going to be offering a catalogue, which will be mailed to our currently 2,000 recipients, and we'll have that catalogue distributed around Ontario as we always do to the racetracks, tack shops, training centres, and still make that familiar part of selling yearlings available," stated Straatman. "The catalogue will be hip numbered and will indicate which day each horse will be opening and closing, and at what time their sales will be closing.

"All horse will be hip numbered, alphabetically by dam, starting with the letter N, but we still encourage people to inspect the horses, make appointments with the farms, and it will be up to the owners and consignors to set up appointments and physically distance and limit the number of people for their own facilities."

What the catalogue won't have is a stall reference. Instead, information will be added to denote the day and time for the horse's auction. The sale is also planning to embrace the virtual element of the auction by providing online maps and locations of the consigned yearlings.

"It's something that I use when I'm planning the inspections of the yearlings, and we of course couldn't do inspections this season because of the restrictions due to the pandemic."

Knowing how long some people might take to get accustomed to the new sale format and its associated differences, Straatman noted that the sale organizers felt it was important to make this decision in enough time to give people the time they need to adjust and plan for how this yearling season will likely be different in ways they might not have started to consider.

"This was the reason we wanted to do it right away, bring it out right away, so people would get used to the new way of doing things this year, and hopefully plan well in advance their inspections, and the time when owners and consignors do their video taping, also do photographs of their horses and even videos of the horses walking as they are often shown at the sale, so that people can have a greater online offering. And hopefully people will feel comfortable by viewing what's available even if they can't see the horse in person.

"We're going to try to all what we can to get as much information as we can to the buyers and I think this a greater opportunity than it is a risk. It really does open up our bidding to the onboarders, beyond a single location."

Given how much more commonly people are using apps like Skype, Zoom, Google Meet and FaceTime amid the coronavirus pandemic, Straatman is hopeful that consignors also see the opportunity in providing potential buyers with these virtual inspections.

"You could even communicate with the owner at that time and ask, 'can I see that hock a little more closely? can you pick up that left front? I'd like to see how that horse is shod'...all those things that you would normally do at the sale, we do have the technology now to do it virtually so I hope that people will take advantage of that opportunity.

"And there's lots of time for people to get signed up on OnGait, to plan their inspections, for consignors and owners to decide when they're going to bring their horses in, when they're going to have the horses available for viewing...there's a lot of things that knowing now how they're going to do it there's a big advantage for us, instead of waiting until the fall, finding out we really can't go with a live auction, and then changing the format suddenly for people."

The full release from the London Selected Yearling Sale follows:


The London Selected Yearling Sale has been tasked with an unprecedented enterprise in 2020: to sell yearlings safely and effectively, while the number of people allowed to gather at an indoor facility has been so severely restricted in Ontario. Without being able to predict how the novel coronavirus will alter our future, we believe it is important to make a plan now, which will not change should COVID-19 continue to change our ability to conduct business, in person, this fall. For this reason, and for the safety of all participants, London Selected Yearling Sale has decided to go totally virtual using the well-known online auction platform, OnGait.com.

London Selected Yearling Sale will continue to support consignors and buyers with a traditional yearling sale catalogue and offer enhanced features on our website. You can expect more videos and photos of each yearling both on the sale website and on ongait.com. We will also be providing a new application with Google Maps, which will help buyers find the yearlings they want to inspect prior to the sale. Every farm boarding yearlings in the sale will be marked with a pin on the sale website’s Google Maps, allowing buyers to plan their inspections of yearlings in the most efficient way possible.

“The decision to abandon our traditional live auction format at the Western Fair Agriplex in London, Ont. was a very difficult one; but we believe that this is the right thing to do for everyone involved,” said Ann Straatman, sale manager. “It is our hope that buyers and consignors will perceive this change to be an opportunity rather than a risk, which will expand our bidding audience without limitations.”


Malboro Seelster sells at the 2019 London Selected Yearling Sale

SARS-CoV-2 has changed the world we live in and no one is immune to its influence, both literally and figuratively. The London sale company will continue to help to bring to you, in the safest way possible, an outstanding group of mostly Ontario-eligible yearlings, from some of the best maternal families available in our sport. The Ontario racing program and product continues to be one of the best in North America and we eagerly look forward to your participation in the London Virtual Yearling Sale this October 18 until October 24 during our virtual auction on OnGait.com.

(LSYS)


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