Here are the photos Ron Marino took at the Windfields Auction Saturday March 6, 2010. You’ll notice that some of the stallions buried at the site were short-lived and others survived into their twenties.
The arena/breeding shed and stallion barns will be a park and open to the public.
The newspaper reports that over 5,000 were at the auction. Ron and I arrived at 8:35 and received bid numbers in the 700s. (An 8:35 arrival had my alarm going off at 6:00.)
There were three auctioneers at three sites. We were interested in the equine stuff which was in the south end of the indoor arena (another site at the north end of the arena had small farm implements and the third site outside the arena had the BIG stuff…tractors, trailer, vehicles, hay wagons, harrows…). As you can well imagine the three auctioneers with their respective P.A. systems made hearing what was being auctioned extremely challenging. Plus with thousands of people at each site you had trouble seeing what was being put up for bid.
The auction started at 9:30ish and we left at 1:00. At the south end of the arena there were four tables (fifteen metres long) with equine stuff (halters, medicine, saddles, bridles, tack boxes) and the four walls surrounding the tables were covered with things to sell. When we left the auctioneer had not finished selling items on table number one. We were lusting after some large leather halters (Ron owns a Canadian) and some brooms. The halters were still hanging on the wall to the east of the table and the brooms were way off in the distance near the southwest corner.
Items were going for MORE than you would pay for them new. Used racing/training saddles (and I mean USED) went for $300 and up. The auctioneer sold one girth at a time. He never mentioned the length of the girth and, on more than one occasion, did not know what he was selling. Kind audience members helped him describe what he held in his hands.
The big equipment area outside started selling lawn mowers, ladders, water troughs, buckets, muck buckets…. I heard that the ladders cost more than new ones. I tried to buy some muck buckets, but was saved when someone paid five dollars per bucket more than they cost at the feed stores.
I know people were buying a piece of history, BUT (and this is a very large BUT) these items had no labels on them. There was no indication that they came from Windfields. So, if these buyers wanted to reap huge profits off of E-Bay…
On table number four there were some beautiful Windfields Farm signs. These were wooden and the paint job was pristine. Bet those suckers went for a pretty penny.
Whole barns were sold along with miles of fencing. Only catch: you had to remove them yourself by a date in June and had to pass “inspection” (making sure you did things properly and neatly).
Can’t imagine what the auction brought in…money-wise.
I do know that at 8:35 there were three porta-potties and you had a 30 minute wait. At 12:00 there were eight potties.
The lunch line to get a ticket so that you could proceed to the food tent kept you salivating for 30 minutes.
Whenever I looked at the line for auction numbers there were at least 75 people waiting.
I was surprised to see that the stallion barn walls in the stalls were made out of cement blocks. Perhaps these were once covered with safety mats to protect valuable legs that just might kick out and smash into a cement wall, but I didn’t notice any apparatus to attach the mats to.
Ron and I estimated that $3000 worth of chipped stone was laid down on the major pathways for the auction. It was March 6, sunny and barely above zero Celsius. If it had been 10 degrees Celsius people would have been stuck in mud.
Even with these cooler conditions the ground was becoming slimy and muddy by 11:00. Without the stone chips the place would have been a mess. Because Ron’s truck was pulling a small trailer (with a dolly to help us move heavier items) we were directed to a field BEYOND everything. I’m thinking that leaving at 1:00 was a good thing. We weren’t caught in a traffic jam. We didn’t sink out of sight or get stuck in oozing mud. The only difficulty was sharing the long tree-lined driveway with opposing traffic. (Yep, the cars were still streaming in!)
It was interesting to measure the size of the indoor arena. All my years of making orienteering maps (pace counting in the forest) helped me determine that the building is 60 metres by 22 metres. The southern end is walled off by a barrier about five feet high. Between tables one and two there was a bit of a drop-off. With all the people cheek to jowl more than one person unexpectedly dropped out of sight. The general opinion is: this was where the mares stood (in the low area) so the shorter stallions (this included Northern Dancer) could earn their millions in stud fees.
Somehow, somewhere deep in my brain I have a picture of a statue of Northern Dancer at his grave. But this is not the case. In fact, the stone chips around the graves are new (like the pathways of stone chips) and the “fence” around the graves is temporary, probably put up for the auction.
I would have liked to have gotten my hands on a map of the farm. One was created for the auction and it showed the buildings and paddocks. As an orienteer it would have been great fun to study the map. But, the powers-that-be obviously printed less than 700 copies because by 8:35 in the morning the only maps I could see were in the hands of the early birds.
And, to answer your question: did we buy anything? No. But we got some great pictures!