By Bill Finley
Adam Bowden probably didn’t turn many heads when he made the winning bid of $450,000 on a broodmare named Fame and Fortune (Unbridled’s Song) on the opening day of the Keeneland November Breeding Sale. Bowden is young (36), quiet, unassuming and a relative unknown in the Thoroughbred business. That makes him a novice. It doesn’t make him someone you should underestimate.
Bowden is among the most important and respected individuals in the Standardbred breeding business and his accomplishments are impressive. In 2005, Bowden and his father Chris started Diamond Creek Farm, buying property in Georgetown, K.Y., and concentrating on buying and breeding top-class mares. The younger Bowden was 24 at the time, but his father put him fully in charge. Six years later, Diamond Creek opened a division in Pennsylvania, which opened the door for the Bowdens to start standing stallions. They now have eight, including 2016 Harness Horse of the Year Always B Miki.
His plans for his Thoroughbred operation are more modest. He would like to eventually have something in the neighborhood of 20 mares and says he has no interest in standing a stallion. Yet, he is confident he can use some of the same theories he employed to develop Diamond Creek into a leading Standardbred breeder to bring success to the Thoroughbred wing of the operation.
“I feel confident that we’re buying the right horses and breeding them to the right stallions,” Bowden said. “The individuals are what they are. If the market likes them they will pay for them. If they don’t like them, they won’t. Selling yearlings can be a pretty humbling thing. When we’re buying mares we look at their pedigrees. We bought the same type of horses in the Standardbred game. Pedigree to me is important. [Fame and Fortune] is also a very nice physical individual and that’s also something that’s always been important to me.”
Fame and Fortune is in foal to Honor Code.
The Bowdens have always enjoyed both sports, but they weren’t ready to enter the Thoroughbred business until they knew that Diamond Creek Standardbreds was on solid footing and did not always need their day-to-day attention. In fact, Adam Bowden, opted to attend session 1 of the Keeneland sale even though it coincided with the largest Standardbred yearling sale in North America, one held annually in Harrisburg, Pa.
“About two years ago, we decided it was time to jump into the Thoroughbred game,” Bowden said. “Over the last 18 months or so we have bought seven mares total, both here and in Europe. We want to make sure we get the right type of mares. I’m not looking to get the same numbers that I have in the Standardbred game, but I want to make sure I buy quality mares. With the ones we’ve purchased so far, we think we can hit some home runs.”
Fame and Fortune is typical of the type of mares Bowden has been buying. He says his price range is between $300,000 and $500,000 and a good pedigree is essential. While Fame and Fortune won just one race, a maiden at Aqueduct, she is impeccably bred. Not only is she by Unbridled’s Song, but her dam, Stop Traffic, was a two-time Grade I winner, and her full-brother Cross Traffic won the 2013 GI Whitney H.
Bowden said before he bought his first Thoroughbred broodmare, he picked out broodmares he liked at the Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland November sales and looked to see if his mythical purchases turned out be good buys. Once convinced that he had a feel for what type of broodmare he could turn a profit with he began buying for real. Making his first purchases last year, Bowden has now bought two mares privately in Europe and another was purchased at Tattersalls. Four mares have been purchased in the U.S.
Diamond Creek has five Thoroughbred weanlings, and intends to sell each one at next year’s yearling sales. The three in Europe, two by Frankel and one by Zoffany, will be sold overseas. The two American-bred horses will sell here. One is by Giants Causeway and the other is by Uncle Mo. Bowden’s European mares are kept at Coolmore and his U.S. based mares call Brookdale Farm their home. He said he has no immediate plans to foal Thoroughbreds at his Kentucky Standardbred farm.
“Eventually, we’d like to have a nice group of mares and I don’t know what that number is, maybe 10 to 15,” he said. “It could be as big as 20 at some point. But we’re going to be methodical about our approach to buying these mares and not buy 10 or 12 a year. If we could add one or two good mares a year I think we’d be happy with that.”
It took a while for Bowden to acquire stallions in the harness game, but, once he did, he showed he was willing to compete with anybody for any horse. He admits that probably wouldn’t be a good strategy in the Thoroughbred game.
“It’s a totally different animal in the Thoroughbred game and the guys who have been [standing stallions] have been doing it for a long time and are very good at what they do,” he said. “I tend to stick to areas where I am confident I know as much as the next guy and I don’t feel that way when it comes to having Thoroughbred stallions.”