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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 7, 2020
The busiest time of the year is upon Woodmere Farms operator Bruce Wood in what will soon be an eight-year journey since taking over the farm from his late father.
Hailing from Marshfield, Wally Wood started Woodmere Farms in the 1970s, expanding from his dairy operation. When Wally died in July 2012, Bruce stepped up to the plate to make sure the Woodmere name lived on.
“I was a big fan of harness racing in my high school years but really didn’t have any involvement at Woodmere until Wally and I bought Wildride Hanover in 2011,” Wood said. “Probably all along, both Wally and I thought that my brother-in-law, David Cook, would continue on with horses at Woodmere. Unfortunately, he passed away before Wally. At that time, I knew that for Woodmere to have a fair shot, there needed to be an investment in genetics. So, we did that and were able to see a return on investment.”
This time of year is peak season for Wood, both at Woodmere Farms and his dairy operation, East River Farms. With foals being born, mares to be pregnancy checked for next season and shipments to be sent to mares breeding to Woodmere stallions, Wood said it is a balancing act operating two busy farms at the same time.
“With mares, foals, yearlings and stallions we’ll peak at about 50 horses very soon. Approximately 15 of those are mares that come to Woodmere for the breeding season. Typical breeding days consist of collecting stallions and taking care of semen ship outs. Then check on farm mares to take care of their repro needs, which may mean breeding, pregnancy checks or scheduling their next check.”
Wood took over an established name in Maritime racing but has made significant changes to the group of horses at the farm with new stallions like Rollwithitharry, Stonebridge Terror and Arthur Blue Chip, as well as a number of talented well-bred race mares.
“We have a set criteria and our new mares have to check most of the boxes,” Wood said. “We have a price point that we stick to. We enjoy finding these mares on the back end of their racing careers, racing in claimers.”
Wood is the first chairman of the newly formed P.E.I. Standardbred Breeders’ Association and is happy with the work that has been done so far.
“There was much to do in the first few months, and we had to prioritize,” Wood said. “We have a great diverse committee that’s engaged with the challenges that lie ahead. (We hope to build) a framework that’s inviting to both new and experienced breeders – a foundation that showcases sustainability and a return on investment in the breeding industry that has a positive economic impact and leaves a green footprint here on P.E.I.”
The 2019 Atlantic Classic Yearling Sale saw the best ever performance from a consignor, as Woodmere sold 11 for a gross of $202,950, representing an unbelievable average of $18,450. The two least expensive Woodmere yearlings sold for well over the sale’s average at $13,000 each.
“We credit the success to the confidence that buyers have in our horses,” Wood said. “We were fortunate enough to have yearlings by diverse stallions that were in demand and to be selling first foals out of a couple of new mares. Making choices for a sale two years in advance can be a challenge that can make or break a breeding farm. Everything lined up well for us in 2019.”
Through all the long hours and investments that may or may not payoff, why does Wood keep breeding horses?
“We enjoy following all the yearlings that have left the farm and watching them mature into racehorses. With that comes connections to the new owners and trainers. We also enjoy engaging the public and hoping that they can find the same enjoyment from the horses and harness racing that we have found.”
Nicholas Oakes' column appears in The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.