Diamond Creek Farm is fast becoming a major player in the New Zealand Standardbred breeding industry with stallions like A Rocknroll Dance, Sweet Lou, Father Patrick and Always Be Miki.
Diamond Creek Farm is based in North America. They has two farms, both of which are run by thirty six year old Adam Bowden.
“I’d like to think we’re an up and coming stud that’s knocking on the door of the top two or three,” he said.
Bowden was introduced to harness racing as a kid with his grandfather and father racing cheap claimers in the state of Maine.
“It’s not a harness heavy state (Maine) but we went to the track at the weekends and I learned how to do the maths, reading the programme and figuring out odds. They got out of it and growing up I was not involved in horses at all,” Bowden said.
His father Chris now runs an acquisitions and management company specializing in real estate while his grandfather Glen is the President of a small trucking company in Maine.
Adam’s interest waned somewhat when both his grandfather and father got out of the industry and he concentrated on getting an education. But the dream of getting back into the industry never went away.
“During my freshman years at college I reached out to Hanover Shoe Farms looking at getting back into it. I figured I’d start with the biggest and the best. I worked for them for two years. After University I learned how to shoe horses and did that for a number of years and ended up managing a couple of farms learning from the ground up.”
Diamond Creek Farm was started in 2005.
“We started with three farms in Kentucky and expanded to Pennsylvania to take advance of the breeder’s awards there. We sold two farms in Kentucky and now have one in each state.”
Bowden says the Kentucky farm in the horse rich Paris area is 260 acres and it has a special significance.
“We developed it from scratch. It was an old cattle farm that didn’t really have anything on it. It’s my pride and joy. When I bought it the grass was over my waist and there was no road or fencing on it. I took a lawn mower and cut out the road. “
The Pennsylvania property was already a stud farm. It’s situated at Wellsville and is just under 150 acres.
“It was in major need of some TLC.”
In the early days the focus was just on developing the farms, the facilities and the quality of the broodmares, not having stallions on farm.
“We didn’t do it for the first few years because we were getting the farms off the ground and expanding our broodmare band.”
When the broodmare quality started to get better, consideration was given to purchasing stallions and Bowden’s approach was to be revolutionary.
“I was 30 years old and who’s going to entrust their horse with a guy that has never done it before? We had to go out and take a rise and buy into these horses before others did. Most people bought into stallions when horses were done racing. We changed the way people are now entering the stallion market by going after these horses as early two year olds.”
Although Ponder was on the scene in the early days Bowden still regards A Rocknroll Dance as the first stallion Diamond Creek Farm got involved in.
“He was the first really big horse we invested in. We’ve followed that model and now everyone is chasing after us by getting involved earlier. He was the horse as a two year old, that we identified as the one we wanted to go after and build our reputation on. He had some struggles during his racing career but he was still one of the top horses at three and four. He then entered the stallion barn and ended up breeding to a full book in his first year. We’ve been thrilled with not only the people that breed to him but also the guys buying the horses.”
He’s one of the leading sires of two year olds in North America at the moment and Bowden proudly points out that two of his top three progeny were bred by Diamond Creek Farm, including quality colt Lost In Time.
“We ended up buying back into the best one Lost In Time. If Lost In Time is named Two Year Old of the Year it’ll be a huge boom for a first year stallion to get off the ground like that. Somebeachsomewhere did it with Captaintreacherous in his first crop and Andover Hall did it with Donato Hanover. These horses need a good colt right away. A Rocknroll Dance did it with 69 live foals compared to some of these other horses that have a hundred plus.”
A Rocknroll Dance has served 373 mares in three seasons in New Zealand and has 146 named foals that are either two year olds or yearlings. He has a further 50 unregistered foals. To date five of his two year olds have qualified.
“The reports are good. I think they broke (in) well and I think the trainers like them. But it only matters if they do it on the track so they’re going to have to show up and win some big races.”
Bowden says after being around a lot of his progeny either on the home farms or at the recently held sales he’s got to know what a typical A Rocknroll Dance horse looks like.
“Looks wise we find we can spot them now. They’re maybe not the prettiest horses in the head but as long as they win people are prepared to forgive that. They’re beautiful bodied horses. In the states they’re good gaited horses, got good attitudes and they try very hard. That was one of the things about A Rocknroll Dance that stood out. He was tough and tried all the time. If he can pass those traits on, the sky’s the limit for him.”
Yankee Cruiser stallion Sweet Lou is also on the Diamond Creek Farm roster. He won close to three million dollars and was Dan Patch Two Year Old Pacing Colt of the Year, Dan Patch Older Pacer of the Year and US Pacer of the Year. He’s served 175 mares in two seasons on the job and his oldest crop in New Zealand are yearlings.
“Lou’s an interesting one because he puts a bit more colour into the breed. More than these other plain bay horses. They’re flashy and have a presence. People pay for that up here. He stood for half the service fee of Captaintreacherous and he out averaged him at both sales. His stock are a bit quirky because he was that way. The training reports so far are very optimistic and I tend to be a bit more cautiously optimistic than most but based on the reports we have so far he’s going to be a big hit.”
Diamond Creek Farm are also huge investors in trotting and have 35 trotting mares on their books. The farm is the home of trotting stallion Father Patrick.
He won 23 of his 33 starts and banked $2.6 million in three seasons of racing. He’s also the holder of two World Records and his best mile time was 1-50.4. He’s been a popular addition to the stallion ranks in New America getting 73 mares in his first season and 135 the next season when he was fully in his stride.
“He stood for a high fee up here and still raced in the year he stood so he had a very limited number of mares. The response at the sales was huge. He stamps them as much as Lou does but in the opposite way. They’re plain paper bag wrapping type horses, but they’re corrected, great bodied horses, have great length and scope to them. He seems to have cleaned up a lot of the conformational flaws that mares have. They’re not a big heavy horse. They’ve got a sleek refined look and look as though they can trot a hole through the wind. Training reports are great. We’ve invested a ton of money in these young stallions hoping that one of them or all of them hit. Reports so far are on the up for both Sweet Lou and Father Patrick.”
Bowden says part of Diamond Creek Farm’s philosophy is that they like to have a share in all of the stallions they stand.
“That shows the ownership groups that we want to be a player and we believe in the horse. We try and buy at least twenty percent of every horse we’re involved in. We back them with our horses and our client’s horses. We do that from the beginning for at least the first four years. We’ve made the syndicates lots of money and I’m proud of the work I’ve done. It’s a team effort from the girls in the office to the stallion handlers.”
Always B Miki is another stallion on the Stud’s book. He’s the only horse in history to win a race in sub 1-47 more than once. He was named 2016 US Horse of the Year and won over $2.8 million.
“Always B Miki was a freak on the track and exhibited class, courage, and the ultimate desire to win. We were in the right place at the right time when it came to securing the ability to stand the horse. Relationships matter and a friendship with the owners allowed a deal to be struck and the rest is history. As one of his owners reiterates to me, ‘He is the gift that keeps on giving.’”
He’s available to downunder breeders through Nevele R and Alabar Studs.
Another exciting prospect for breeders is Downbytheseaside. He’s a son of Somebeachsomewhere which won over two million.
“Plans are to shuttle him to the Southern Hemisphere. He doesn’t have a deal in place yet but if everything goes according to plan then he would arrive for the 2018 breeding season. He’s got a full book here. We’re limited to 140 breeding mares per year. We’ve got 200 contracts in so we have to go through them and decide. He’s the next new big one we’re going after and making him into hopefully the next great one.”
Bowden has been to New Zealand three times now and has been impressed with the quality of land and the people that are involved in the industry here – the reason he sends stallions to the southern hemisphere.
“John Curtin was gracious enough to take me round and introduce me to all kinds of people in New Zealand and Australia. The response we got from A Rocknroll Dance piqued my interest. He was a horse that would ‘fit’ travelling. He travelled and performed well when he raced. His semen quality and numbers were excellent and off the charts, so there was no reason not to do it.”
A Rocknroll Dance has shared New Zealand custody, being available at both Nevele R and Alabar Studs.
“He was an expensive horse to get involved with and it was nice to get the backing of two major farms. For a horse to be successful you need involvement and the client base that both farms provide made for a deal that was too good to pass on.”
Diamond Creek Farm has between 15 to 20 staff depending on the season with the heavier number during the yearling prep and foaling season.
“We’ve been lucky enough to find great people that are prepared to go back and forth between the farms depending on the season.”
Each year they prepare between 30 and 50 yearlings.
“We take most of our yearlings to the sales but we have a handful of mares that we keep everything out of, no matter what.”
They’re also keen investors in the future of the industry and offer internships which run between six and twelve months.
“We struggled for years trying to find quality help that was willing to give us time and we could never seem to find people we were happy with. We’ve gone for younger kids – boys and girls from University who were looking to get their foot in the door and we provide that opportunity.”
At the recent Lexington Yearling Sales they sold an A Rocknroll Dance – Somewherovrarainbow colt for $330,000. Somewherovrarainbow, which is owned by Bowden, won 18 races and $1,264,348 and paced a mile in 1-48.0. She was the winner of the 2012 Dan Patch Award for Two Year Old Filly of the Year.
“It was to dissolve a partnership. It was great for the horse, the stallion and my mare. We ended up keeping it by buying out our partner. We had to pay that type of money to do that.”
Another top end mare on Diamond Creek Farms books is Bettor’s Delight mare See You At Peelers. She won 26 of her 31 starts and was named Dan Patch Award two and three year old filly of her year.
The stud is also credited with winning three respective Breeders Crown races at Woodbine in October 2015. The winners were Pure Country, Creatine and Divine Caroline. Creatine and Pure Country were part-owned by Bowden.
On the breeding front in New Zealand the number of pacing mares being served this season is the lowest for some time. Bowden says it’s a similar situation in America.
“It’s the same here. It’s a pain in the butt. It’s tough to make money. You’ve got to find a niche and you’ve got to really explore it to make money and that’s very difficult to do. The guys that used to breed five to ten mares are no longer involved. You’re left with some major farms and guys that breed to one or two mares. The middle guy is gone.”
Diamond Creek Farm has a total of 31 pacing broodmares on their books.
Bowden says one part of the industry that appears to be growing in New Zealand is trotting. Figures released by NZSBA show the number of trotting mares being served is growing.
“The first time I came down there it was the forgotten gait. In the last few years it picked up because more and more horses are available to the breeders and that can only be good for the sport.”
Diamond Creek Farm also races some of it’s stock, generally capping the number at 20 race horses per season. Their racing stock includes Pure Country ($2,233,566 and 1-48.0). She was named two and three year old filly of her year. Race horses owned by the stud are trained by Jimmy Takter, Ron Burke, Linda Toscano and former Southern boy Nifty Norman.
“She (Pure Country) is out of a mare (Western Montana) that I purchased. She (Western Montana) was the third horse I ever purchased when I got involved in 2005 so Pure Country is a pure homebred.”
They’ve also ventured into sponsorship in New Zealand, being naming rights sponsors of the Group One New Zealand Derby and also The Group Two Diamond Creek Farm Two Year Old Classic in Southland. They also sponsor a race on Breeders Crown and Hambletonian Days.
Without doubt Diamond Creek Farm will have a major influence on the New Zealand Breeding scene over the next few years and beyond.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the response from breeders down under and we hope like heck that these horse turn out.”