By Bill Finley
Breeding + Racing =Success.
That’s the formula, an unconventional one in the U.S. harness racing, that Adam Bowden, Jimmy Takter and their partners have pieced together this year for the standout 4-year-old trotter Father Patrick. With a horse of this caliber, no one has ever tried to breed and race in the same year. But this is a team that didn’t mind thinking outside of the box, especially when Jeff Gural changed the way the breeding game is played when he instituted rules that made it impractical for horses to retire to stud after their 3-year-old seasons.
So Father Patrick spent his off-season breeding and training, with the goal of him not only producing revenue as a sire but coming back with a vengeance on the track. Will it happen?
The question will be easier to answer after Father Patrick has his 3-year-old debut Sunday in the Maxie Lee at Chester. It is anything but a soft spot as the field also includes the sensational 5-year-old mare Bee A Magician, who could not be in better for right now.
“You always have reservations whenever you do something like this,” Bowden said. “Some people had done it before but not with a horse of this caliber or magnitude. You always wonder if he is going to take to doing both and can focus on doing both. From what I hear, he has done phenomenally and I don’t think he’s ever been as good as he is now. His semen has improved. His semen numbers and quality have improved as the year has gone on, which you would expect from a breeding stallion that has been retired but for someone who is still in heavy training it’s been fantastic.
“As we’ve asked him to collect for more and more mares he’s been able to do it. He’s getting his mares in foal and we had such a warm reception with the quality of mares. We went in with the idea of having 60 mares because the demand was there and opened it back up because the demand was more than we expected and went to 70. He continues to breed and race. He’s going to get collected (Friday) and will race on Sunday.”
Qualifiers don’t always tell you much, but Father Patrick’s could not have gone better. He started off by going in 1:55 while losing to Melady’s Monet and has since won two in a row, in 1:53.3 and 1:52.
“Everything is much better than I expected,” Takter said. “The horse had three qualifiers and he was stronger in every one of them. The last one was in (1):52 with the plugs
left in; (Yannick Gingras) never really asked him anything. The horse is ready.”
Takter said the stud duties have had no negative impact on Father Patrick.
“It hasn’t hurt him,” Takter said. “He’s going to breed three times this week. He’s got a busy schedule, this guy. He doesn’t seem to mind it. We’ve been fortunate that it hasn’t been that hot. Sometimes when they’ve got to ship back and forth and breed, you just want to make sure their weight stays right.”
There couldn’t be a tougher spot for him to return in. Father Patrick is one of four millionaires in the Maxie Lee, none of whom look more formidable that Bee A Magician. She went 17 for 17 as a three-year-old and was named Horse of the Year before a subpar 4-year-old year. This year she’s been a terror, going 3 for 3, with all of her wins coming against males, the latest an easy win in the Cutler.
“I think Jimmy is confident and I’m confident,” Bowden said. “He’s as good as he’s going be at this point of the year after three qualifiers. We’ll find out. Obviously she is quite a horse. She beat the Cutler horses the other day and I have questions about who she beat, but she’s a pretty darn good filly. Would it surprise me if she beat us? Absolutely not. But I think we can beat her. The Racing Gods will take care of all that.”
Throughout the year, Father Patrick will be watched closely as he is a litmus test for whether or not breeding plus racing works, even though the Europeans have been doing it successfully for decades. But Bowden isn’t going to push the envelope any more than he has. He says it’s highly unlikely that Father Patrick will race as a 5-year-old.
“I doubt it,” Bowden said when asked about a 2016 racing campaign for the horse. “There are six partners and some of them were totally against this plan, but they understood we were pigeon holed in by Gural rule. At end of this year, that won’t be an issue. I can’t imagine a situation where this group decides to do this another year. It would be a lot more challenging to do this and breed to 140 mares. Seventy mares is a lot easier to manage.”
Father Patrick stud fee this year was $30,000, which had a lot to do with the fact that his book was limited to 70 mares. The forces of supply and demand will be different next year when is bred to a full book and with that in mind, Bowden said it’s likely his fee will be reduced next year.