Annie Dalton is a bit of legend in the world of yearling preparation but after 32 years of taking youngsters to the sales, she says this year will be her last.

Annie, 67, and her trainer husband Clive have been involved with horses their whole lives and have a property just outside Shepparton. Annie Dalton is preparing six yearlings for the APG Melbourne Yearling Sale on February 4 and said she was keen to finish on a high note.

“I prepared 40 yearlings one year. It nearly killed me, and I vowed never to do that again,” she said. “This year we have six, which is really nice. I love it but it is time for me to stop. I have talked about it for a while and I have decided this year will be my last sale.”

“The colt Art Major colt out of Sahara Miss (Lot 202) and the colt by Downbytheseaside from Sahara Sunrise (Lot 200) are exceptional. There should be a lot of interest in them. I sold Sahara Miss to Bruce Paul in 2007. Now it has come full circle and I will prepare her colt.” Dalton continues. “It is the first time they have sold anything from this family at the yearling sale. The Art Major colt from The Waratah is also impressive (Lot 219). I had all her foals and they have all won. Mirragon (1.50.2, $338K) was a quality young horse and has gone on to win eight races in the US.”

Dalton said she began standardbred yearling prep in the early 1990s with just one youngster.

“I didn’t get involved in harness racing until I met Clive,” she said. “After we married, I rode horses and helped around the stables but I didn’t work the pacers. In 1992, I helped with yearling prep at Karamea Farms and in 1994 I prepared one yearling myself. The owner said he would offer a free service to his stallion for the yearling prep, so I gave it a go and it grew from there.”

“The next year he gave me a New Zealand bred colt to prepare. He was a beautiful colt and superbly bred, though it didn’t mean much to me at the time. He was by Falcon Seelster from a daughter of Tuapeka Star, and he topped the sale at $42,000. He was named Starclass Falcon and won as a two-year-old but then got injured.”

“He went on to a big show career in the standardbred classes. In the early days, I used to check when they were named and watch for their first race starts. You feel quite proud when they do well. We prepared Restrepo ($527K) and Messini ($711K) among others. I count myself very lucky to have prepared so many good horses.”

Dalton said her early years competing in equestrian events helped her develop the knowledge to prepare top class yearlings for sale. She started with ponies as a child and progressed to show horses and thoroughbreds. She was also an instructor at her parents’ riding school.

“I used to compete quite a bit. I won a bronze medal in eventing at the Masters Games,” she said. “To prepare yearlings, you must feed them well and work them well. You can’t put them all in the same basket. You have to assess each individual and feed and work them accordingly. The standard of yearling preparation has risen so much. You really have to make sure they stand out from the crowd.”

Dalton said she had only missed one APG Melbourne yearling sale and that was when she was in WA prepping thoroughbred youngsters for the Perth Magic Millions sale.

“We were in WA for five years and really loved it. Clive trained privately for Neven Botica,” she said. “He trained John Of Arc, who made the (2016) Interdominion final and was runner-up in the WA Pacing Cup. And we won the trotters cup with Earl Of Charity. Even when we were in WA, I used to come home for 10 weeks to prep the yearlings for the sale.”

It is a bittersweet farewell from us at APG as Annie embarks on her last sale, with someone who has done so much for the industry it is always hard to see them go. But we wish Annie all the best for a relaxing retirement and of course the best of luck for her final sale!