Last horses raised by Meridian Farms owner Brian Andrew to be sold at auction

The Atlantic Classic Yearling sale in Crapaud, P.E.I., will include the last horses raised by the man behind the well-known breeding and racing operation in Milton. Brian Andrew passed away at the age of 70 last year after a brief illness.

The man behind the well-known breeding and racing operation died in December 2018

Rachel and Blake Andrew's father passed away suddenly last year. (Laura Chapin/CBC News)

Horses have always been a big part of Rachel Andrew's life and selling them has always been hard — but never more so than now.

She and her brother Blake grew up around horses at Meridian Farms in Milton, P.E.I., one of the top breeding and racing operations in eastern Canada.

The Andrews learned everything they know from Meridian's mastermind: their father, Brian Andrew. 

"We always grew up around the horses, not just the breeding side but also the racing side," she said. "When it's in your blood, it's in your blood. There's no going back."

Brian Andrew ran the farm for almost two decades and passed his passion and love for the animals down to his children. He died in December 2018 after a sudden illness. 

This year, the Atlantic Classic Yearling sale has additional significance for both Blake and Rachel. They're selling some of the last horses their father helped raise on Oct. 11.

"It's going to be a difficult sale to be there without Dad," said Rachel. 

"I'll just be proud to see them there because, you know, that's part of my dad that's going into the sale and he cared a lot about what he did ... I think more than anything it'll actually be a happy time," said Rachel.

'It's difficult to close this book'

Both Rachel and Blake said the farm isn't the same without their father. 

John Duffy says he still expects to see Brian's face every time the door to the barn opens. (Laura Chapin/CBC News)

"You know every time I come back here I just, I feel … things haven't changed in a way," said Blake. "It's difficult to close this book I guess. But, you know, we have decades of memories, not enough, but lots to draw on in the future."

Rachel said she also expects to find her father still minding the farm every time she returns. 

"It's very surreal … it's a very different feeling. He did a lot for the industry here," she said. "So, in that perspective I know he's going to be very very very missed."

John Duffy has worked on the farm for 17 years, since the beginning, and said every time he hears a door open, he expects to see Brian walking into the room. 

"He was a good man," he said. "We miss him."

Future of the farm

Both Blake and Rachel have built their own careers in the same industry as their father, but have ventured off P.E.I. Rachel is involved with horse racing in Ontario, while her brother Blake has a small breeding operation in New York. 

'It's hard to say what next year will bring but we feel like we're ... closing it in a way that would have, I think made him happy about it,' says Blake Andrew. (Travis Kingdon/CBC News)

Once the sale of these five horses are complete, the Andrew siblings will start thinking about plans for the future. But they said they are committed to continuing the work that's already underway on the farm.

"The farm, it's not like a toaster, you can't just pull the plug on it," said Blake. "So we're carrying through … what was in motion in terms of the horses that were bred and foaled and becoming yearlings.

"It's hard to say what next year will bring but we feel like we're … closing it in a way that would have, I think, made him happy about it."

Rachel agrees with her brother.

"I would love to be back here maybe continuing but that's not in the cards right now," she said. 

"We love racing here and we love the industry here. We're going to try to do our best to also help in that perspective and follow in his footsteps because he did he did a lot for racing on Prince Edward Island." 

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Travis Kingdon is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. He moved to the Island from Toronto in the spring of 2019.