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Open House at Winbak of Canada proves a rousing success

Thursday, February 13, 2020  By: Garnet Barnsdale


How do you get more than 200 people out to a breeding farm on a wintery Sunday afternoon in Ontario, Canada? Winbak Farm’s  Canadian operation and horse owner Adriano Sorella showed how last Sunday, presenting an Open House highlighted by a stallion showcase, free food and some great prize giveaways.

Sorella, whose own Jimmy Freight is standing his first breeding season at Winbak for a $5,000 service fee, provided a food truck, an ice cream truck and many of the prize giveaways that featured a MacBook Air, several televisions, gaming systems and hundreds of Jimmy Freight wine glasses.

For Sorella, who has promoted Jimmy Freight everywhere you can think of, one of his gauges of the day’s success was the popularity of frozen treats on a frosty day. “Look, when you bring an ice cream truck and it’s below zero in Ontario and people are lined up for the ice cream, that’s a good sign!,” he exclaimed. “I guess I’m not the only kid out there. There’s a kid in a lot of us. Racing needs more of this type of event.”

Winbak of Canada’s Farm Manager, Pat Woods, said he brought the idea of this Stallion Open House to the farm’s owner Joe Thomson and the boss was fully supportive. “Then it began to gain a little steam and Adriano jumped in and put a lot behind this,” Woods explained. “Working together, we’ve turned it into a great event here today.”

Woods added that in addition to getting a great turnout, there was plenty of positive feedback. “We’ve had a lot of positive things said about our stallions, about the babies and the mares, and people like how the setup has worked out, so I think it’s been a great success all the way around.”

Considering the success of this event, Woods said there is a good chance this could become an annual or semi-annual undertaking. “For us, it was a big thing this year to get four new stallions (Jimmy Freight, McWicked, The Bank and Stag Party),” he commented. “It’s kind of unheard of for a breeding farm to unveil four in the same year and it just kind of fell into our lap a little bit. But I think if people want to come out and see this type of stallion showcase, we’ll definitely do it.”

As far as getting the desired outcome, Sorella said he believed he (and Winbak) got the successful day that they hoped for.  “I wanted people to come out and see Jimmy and the type of horse he is and his character and conformation,” said Sorella. “Also, to get to know the people here at Winbak who all seem to be doing a great job. Joe (Thomson) flew in to meet and greet people and the turnout was really good. Overall, we accomplished what we set out to do here. People had a good time and enjoyed the food and the giveaways. This is what you try to do; create a little bit of awareness: people get to come out and see the stallions and meet each other. It was a very positive Sunday.”

Sorella, who laughingly added that it wouldn’t “take a genius” to figure out how much he laid out for the food, prizes, Jimmy Freight wine glasses etc., said there is a clear method to his madness. “Racing needs more of this stuff,” he said. “We don’t think this adds any kind of value, but here is the value: when a person has a good time, next time they bring others and so on. For me, my family wasn’t involved in racing at all. I went to the track and fell in love with horses and racing, and now I’ve spent millions of dollars in harness racing. If it takes a little piece of you, that’s how you get someone supporting the business or maybe even new owners.”

COSA President Bill O’Donnell said the event was good public rela-tions and noted that it is also a chance for potential breeders to get a look at the studs. “If you’re going to breed a mare, you like to see the stallion,” said the Hall of Fame driver. “I think Adriano is doing a great job and he’s going to be doing some promotions for COSA in the near future. We’re optimistic that it’s going to bring some people to the track and get some people betting on the races.”

O’Donnell also indicated that he was pleased with the turnout. “It’s February and up here and there are spots where it snows almost every day,” he said. “It’s good that people came out; it’s great business, really.” Dan Fisher, Editor of Trot magazine, echoed O’Donnell’s comments. “I think it’s great what Winbak does for our industry here in Ontario with the number of sires and the mares that they breed to support their own stallions,” he said. “They really do a lot for our breeding program in general and days like today are no different.”

Fisher said he wasn’t sure what to expect regarding the number of people coming out to the Open House, but he was pleased with what he saw when he arrived. “You know, it’s a Sunday afternoon, the location is a bit north of Brampton, and I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “Then I pull in and it see all the cars, and I’m a bit surprised. It’s great really.”


Louis Phillipe-Roy – recent winner of the 2019 ‘O Brien Award for Driver of the Year and the teamster that drove Jimmy Freight to many of his memorable wins  – was on hand to show his support for the new stallion, mentioning that he bought a mare at last fall’s Harrisburg sale to breed to him. “If he passes on his good attitude and his effort, I’m thinking that 4 or 5 years from now when you see his babies on the track, you will be able to identify them because he passed those traits on,” Roy remarked.

The only person on the grounds that might have left happier than the organizers was Jane Watkins, who won a breeding to Stag Party – who is standing for $4,000 – courtesy of Winbak Farm. Watkins, who said she didn’t own any mares and might look to sell her prize, said she was “excited” nonetheless.

There was certainly a lot of excitement generated on a day where people could see great stallions like Bettor’s Delight up close, check out Sorella’s Jimmy Freight and the other new studs all the while being fed and having chances to win some great prizes. It is an event that is likely to generate plenty of chatter within and outside the industry as attendees tell friends and family about the experience.

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