A decades-old tradition has been broken with the migration of a major horse sale from Edmonton to Red Deer.
Unable to hold its annual yearling sale at Northlands because of renovations there, the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society’s Alberta division brought 140 racing prospects to Westerner Park on Tuesday.
It was a temporary move that could become long term in light of the service, facilities and access Westerner Park has to offer, say people involved in the event.
Thoroughbred breeder Tina Stone brought four horses up from her family’s ranch near Madden, 55 kilometres northwest of Calgary.
Some people in the industry had felt the buyers wouldn’t come to the sale if it were moved out of Edmonton, said Stone.
But people will drive a long way when they’re shopping for horses, and Red Deer is more convenient to people who live in the southern areas of the province.
“They’re horse and agriculture oriented here, and our most important thing at a horse sale is safety for our horses, and they can actually walk on this footing. You go somewhere else, and they fall down.”
While she was pleased with the venue, Stone was disappointed, but not surprised, to see a significant drop in prices this year.
She had anticipated that people would be holding tight to their money this year for two reasons.
First, the economy is in a slump and secondly, there has been a drastic reduction in the number of race days available since Stampede Park at Calgary was closed.
The result has been a dramatic reduction in the number of race days.
“We need a race track in Southern Alberta,” said Stone.
Horse racers have been hanging their hopes on the new track that has been promised for Balzac, but so far failed to materialize, she said.
Previously, there were A-circuit races in both Edmonton and Calgary.
The A circuit offers bigger purses and better horses than the other tracks. While there are typically 140 race days a year between the two tracks, there are now only 75, she said.
Gordon Wilson, president of the CTHS Alberta Division, said Edmonton Northlands is not capable of filling in the void left since Calgary’s track closed down.
He was enthusiastic, however, about the possibility of bringing the yearling sale back to Red Deer in the future.
The level of service offered at Westerner Park would be the biggest attraction, with the facilities also in the running, said Wilson.
The yearling sale is a huge event in the racing industry, because that’s where people go to find their future race horses.
Alumni from previous sales include famous names like Switch an’ Win, Teagues Fight and Artic Laur. Artic Laur’s career earnings have reached nearly $635,000, while Teagues Fight has brought home just under $560,000.
As part of Horseracing Alberta’s incentive program, all horses sold at the sale are automatically eligible for a $60,000-stakes race as 2-year-olds and a $50,000 stakes race when they turn three, said Wilson.
Horse racers Perry Pellerin of Calgary and Ron Wiley of Regina said they definitely found a buyers’ market at Red Deer. By 2:30 p.m., they had purchased three prospects, including a filly and a gelding from Tina Stone and her crew and another filly from Esquirol Farms, located at Ryley.
Tuesday purchases increased their stable, the Dark Cloud Racing syndicate, to 11 horses and counting. Next week, they’re off to Kentucky to look for more horses.
Dark Cloud has actually made money at the races in the past year, said Wiley. So, he and Pellerin decided to reinvest those profits by buying more horses.