08/01/2002 11:00PM

Hopes high in spite of drought

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EDMONTON, Alberta - Optimism remains high for the upcoming Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society preferred yearling sale at Northlands Park despite alarm bells ringing in other areas of the livestock industry on the prairies because of drought.

"We are anticipating at least being able to match last year's excellent sale when our average went from the previous year's $6,140 to $8,040," said Rennie Gellner, manager of the Alberta division of the CTHS.

The sale is scheduled for Aug. 25, a dark day following the Canadian Derby.

"With 22l head, we have the biggest catalog in the l5 years I have been with this organization," said Gellner. "There are always scratches for various reasons, but from a catalog of 188 last year, 174 head were offered and 145 sold.

"With the substantial increase in purses of more than $100,000 offered at Calgary and Edmonton, plus Alberta-bred bonuses, it will keep the buyers' interest high. And with Northlands now doubling their number of slot machines to 500, the future figures to be even brighter."

The drought and the bare pastures it's caused have received wide coverage in the media, and some horse owners have even threatened to sell their horses for meat. But Gellner contends that the situation does not have a large effect on Thoroughbred breeders. "Most affected by the drought is the eastern part of Alberta," he said. "But the real horse country is south of Calgary and there is no lack of feed there."

The catalog lists 106 colts and 115 fillies of which 183 are Alberta-bred, 28 U.S.-bred, nine from B.C., and one from Ontario.