On Friday (Oct. 9), Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford announced COVID-related changes for gatherings in three regions — Toronto, Ottawa and Peel, which is home to Winbak Farm of Canada, the location for this Saturday’s Ontario Select Yearling Sale.
Those changes to public gatherings will not affect this Saturday’s sale according to Ontario Select Yearling Sale Manager Pat Woods.
“Basically the government of Ontario has stated our plan that we have in place is in accordance with the rules,” Woods told Trot Insider. “The police can shut us down at any point if they feel we’re not in accordance with their interpretation of the rules.”
The change to the guidelines instituted by the Province last Friday has thrown an unexpected wrinkle into the preparations for the inaugural Ontario Select Yearling sale that features more than 130 yearlings.
“We’ve called public health, we’ve called the government of Ontario, we’ve called the by-law officer, we’ve called OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) because they already had a complaint that we were going to have 1,000 people here,” said Woods. “It’s been a nightmare.”
Woods fully expects that the prospective buyers for this weekend’s sale will follow all guidelines to ensure that the sale runs smoothly.
“We’re telling everybody only active bidders can be here, you must be signed up, there are 200 spots to physically be here on the day of the sale. We’ve got the main tent, which is allowed 100 people, and then we’ve got a second tent, which is the preferred viewing area, that we’re allowed 100 people in.
“We’re not necessarily governed by a number; we’re classified the same as Wal-Mart or The Home Depot where we just have to make sure that there’s enough room to physically distance two metres from any person. There’s no congregating, masks are mandatory at all times, and only active bidders will be allowed in the tent so we’re trying to keep those numbers down…because there will be people wandering around looking at horses, so we’re asking that people only go into the tent when you want to bid on them.”
Yearlings will be available for viewing by appointment starting on Thursday (October 15) and Woods feels that the two days of advanced viewing can help keep numbers down on sale day given that buyers can bid remotely on Saturday if desired.
“It works out in our favour if people come, look at the horses and then bid from home. And we’re encouraging every person to make sure — even if they’re coming here — to sign up online as well, so that if there’s a hiccup or the police shut things down or tell people to go home, then they can still bid.
“I’ll talk to the consignors about it tomorrow (Wednesday) when they’re here; we’re going to have a meeting and go over it because that’s something we just can’t control. I’ve tried the best I can, I’ve talked to staff sergeants and everything else, and I’ve been told it’s officer discretion. And it says right in the government of Ontario paperwork that the police are allowed to shut things down without question…We would suspend things at the current time and then finish the sale online.”
Woods noted that the sale would have staff in place to ensure that those in attendance comply with the guidelines.
“We’ll have people here to make sure that every person is following the rules. If they don’t want to comply, I’ll call the police myself and tell them to have them removed. I’m not jeopardizing our industry and all the hard work the horsemen have done up to this point for the sake of one person.
“I don’t foresee an issue if everyone follows the rules. If people don’t then it’s going to get shut down, that’s just the bottom line…and it should if people don’t follow the rules.”