Yearling sale preparation a team effort


The Yearling sales for so many buyers conjure up all kinds of questions.

The dream of purchasing the next champion can keep them awake at night, inspecting bloodlines, type, pedigree duplications and all ranges of theories on how to find the next mega star of harness racing.

Anxious vendors hope they have chosen the right sire and cross, hoping to attract interested bidders and trainers alike.  

However the sales also bring a huge amount of work and pressures to yearling preparers around New Zealand.

This year Scott Yarndley, Farm Manager of Breckon Farms, finds himself with the responsibility of preparing a remarkable 41 yearlings for the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale, to be held at Karaka on February 12.

Yarndley has been preparing Yearlings for thirty years, and says it is a process that starts long before any sale catalogue is printed.

“To be honest it starts before you even serve the mare,” he explains. “Breeding your mares to the stallions that are firstly commercial and secondly continue to improve the type of yearling you breed.  Then weaning is really then when it all starts again for us. Our weaning program suits our needs to produce well-mannered and easy to handle yearlings once they come in to be prepared. If you are prepared to do the hard yards early then it pays off as they get older.”

The logistical plans that go into preparing the Breckon Farms consignment is something that have been in place now for quite some time, making the whole process less daunting than it would seem to the outside world.

With a team of eight employed to help prepare the Yearlings this season, and a permanent staff member (Philly) to lead the team through the day to day routine, the preparation tasks in place for the large amount of yearlings that need to make it to the sales are well thought out.

“The first month is a big learning curve for the Yearlings and also the staff. But the most time consuming part for me personally is taking the photos – and there are plenty of photos taken. But then there is the editing of the photos afterwards also,” Yarndley says. “Getting our photos and videos done early allows anybody that’s interested a chance to view them over Christmas and the New Year.”

“If you were to ask the girls what the most time consuming part is, then of course the grooming and mucking out would be the top of the list.”

Once inspections start closer to sale time, and the Yearling parades, the pressure then goes on again.

“I’d say it’s more stressful for the team, as there are the pressures to turn out impeccable Yearlings for a parade with little time between horses and that can definitely ramp up the pressure, especially if you get behind for whatever reason.

For me it’s always the goal to start and end with all the Yearlings making it to the sales safely.  And when, for different reasons, you have to ring an owner to give them the bad news that their horse has had an accident and has had to be withdrawn, that’s something I’ve always hated to do. Of course the closer you get to the sales the fitter and healthier the yearlings are and as you know they’ll always find a way to get into trouble. The improvements that Ken and Karen (Breckon) have done and are still doing since taking over are a huge benefit to the horses’ well-being.” Yarndley said.

In his thirty years preparing yearlings and being involved with the juvenile standardbred he has encountered some unique individuals.

In 1986 Yarndley prepared McCoy, a Smooth Fella-Black Watch colt, who in just four bids set a new record for a standardbred being sold in Australasia when purchased by Australian interests for $120,000.

Il Vicolo was another he recalled, who dominated his peers winning 31 of his 53 starts, including the 1995 and 1996 New Zealand Trotting Cup, the New Zealand and Northern Derbies, the New South Wales Derby, a New Zealand FFA and Two-Year-Old Sires Stakes Final. He retired with $1.5million in earnings. $1.3million of which was from winning stakes.

When it comes to finding a nice yearling Yarndley has his own views on what to look for.

“Now of course everyone will have a different opinion on this but for me I like to see a Yearling that has a playful nature but also one that has the smarts to go with it. On type there are 2 different kinds that I like, the rangy type that is not too heavy set with a finer bone that will need some time and then you have the shorter coupled horse that has a big shoulder, solid neck with a powerful hind end,” said Yarndley.

And despite all of the pressure placed on Scott and his team to get the horses to sale in one piece, his satisfaction comes from seeing the thrill these horses go on to give their connections.

“When we can as a team, breed, foal down, wean and then finally send them off to the sales in their prime as a Yearling it is satisfying,” he explains.

“And then for them to then go on and have a successful racing career and give enjoyment to the owners, then that’s the enjoyment I personally get.”

“The bonus is that you get to meet really great people along the way, and we really do appreciate the continued support. “