Diamond Creek’s multi-award-winning year that was a decade in the making

by Debbie Little

When Maine native Adam Bowden founded Diamond Creek Farm less than 20 years ago, he could not have envisioned the success he had in 2023, although it was always the goal.

“I was a 24-year-old knucklehead who ended up going to the yearling sales,” Bowden said of the origins of Diamond Creek. “I think I bought five race fillies and then I went to Harrisburg and bought 20 mares and that was 2005, the fall of 2005.”

The U.S. Harness Writers Association named Bowden’s Diamond Creek racing and breeding entities the 2023 Dan Patch Owner of the Year and Breeder of the Year, respectively, and their stallion, Sweet Lou, the inaugural Dan Patch Pacing Sire of the Year.

Diamond Creek acquired Sweet Lou 10 years ago, partly setting in motion the success currently being seen.

“It’s kind of a true rags-to-riches story,” owner Mark Weaver said of Sweet Lou.

Weaver, of Weaver Bruscemi with partners Burke Racing, Larry Carr and Phil Collura, owned the son of Yankee Cruiser—Sweet Future prior to the formation of the Sweet Lou Syndicate in January of 2015. Bowden is their syndicate manager.

“Adam was very interested in standing him and we were able to work something out,” Weaver said. “He went after him pretty hard… Luckily for us, we didn’t finalize the deal until after that 5-year-old season and we got paid quite a bit more.”

Weaver, who represents the Burke Brigade when it comes to standing their stallions, admits that 10 years ago when they syndicated Sweet Lou, he didn’t know a lot about that side of the business, but he always had a lot of faith in his stallion, although some others did not.

“[Sweet Lou and Captaintreacherous] went to stud the same year,” Weaver said. “Lou went after his 5-year-old year and Captain after his 4-year-old year, and Lou’s first year, his 2-year-olds averaged more than Captaintreacherous’ did.

“But [Sweet Lou] didn’t get the recognition and, honestly, it irked me. People were talking — the connections in particular of Captaintreacherous — as if he was the greatest stallion ever and here our stallion’s 2-year-olds averaged more than Captaintreacherous’.”

That initial lack of respect didn’t give Lou the best mares. However, he still produced on the track.

“So, that first crop had Warrawee Ubeaut, who was phenomenal, and won the Breeders Crown at 2 and 3,” Weaver said. “It was because of that first crop success that we got quality mares.

“Those quality mares [produced] Confederate, Cannibal and It’s My Show. That’s the year that was in reaction to Lou’s first year. We always felt what he was able to do with just okay mares, once he got the good ones that they would dominate and that’s exactly what’s happened.”

Bowden remembers sitting down with Weaver after Warrawee Ubeaut’s 2-year-old season.

“We were like, all right, we’re going to raise his fee and we’re also going to hand pick mares and Diamond Creek is going to breed a bunch of what we think are good young mares, and Burke Racing was going to breed a bunch of good mares,” Bowden said. “We sold breedings for upfront, no guarantees that were higher than the stud fee. And it was a massive risk on our part and Mark was willing to buy into it.

“And it was really his idea that if Sweet Lou was ever going to have a chance to showcase and shine that it was going to come on the backs of this group of mares and he was right. We were right. It was amazing.

“Mark and us always felt if Sweet Lou got a comparable book of mares to Captaintreacherous that he would outperform him, and he got an equal book, maybe even slightly better, and he absolutely crushed him. And I think that was our goal, to show the world that Sweet Lou deserved this kind of accolades and respect, and it ended up working out. Now he stands for $20,000, does a full book of mares and we’re oversubscribed.”

Some have referred to 2023 as the “Year of Lou,” due to the accomplishments of the 15-year-old stallion’s offspring, especially in the “glamour boy” division, but that’s not the phrase Weaver prefers.

“I don’t know who started it and I kind of don’t like the slogan because it kind of implies that it’s just this year,” Weaver said. “This is 10 straight years of [his book] being full and that’s more like the ‘Decade of Lou.’ Nobody knows about a stallion. I’m not going to act like I knew he would be this good.

But he’s such a good outcross to so many different mares.”

Weaver loves to be as hands on as possible when it comes to the management of Sweet Lou, except when it comes to giving the acceptance speech, which he’ll leave to Bowden.

“With Diamond Creek, they’re in charge but I’m probably, I would assume, more involved in the process than most of the other owners and, to be honest, I’m involved as much as they’ll let me be,” Weaver said. “My favorite day of the year, every year is when his book is announced full and closed and I’m usually anxious for it to happen… To me it’s just such a sense of satisfaction to know that the people have supported him again.

“I have two kids and a dog and he’s like my fourth. It’s almost like having a kid. It feels good for him to get the support and then be able to show it on the track. It’s way better than any experience with racing. It’s a whole other level of satisfaction.”

According to the U.S. Trotting Association’s 2023 sire statistics for 3-year-old pacers, Sweet Lou led the way in earnings with $6,846,031, followed by four sons of Somebeachsomewhere: Captaintreacherous ($5,258,526), Downbytheseaside ($5,099,352), Stay Hungry ($4,786,762) and Huntsville ($4,748,151).

Weaver mentioned that the Somebeachsomewhere line is strong and that Lou and his sons are a good breeding choice for ‘Somebeach’ mares.

“If it weren’t for Lou, who would all those [Somebeachsomewhere mares] breed to?” Weaver said. “So, you’ve got Lou, who’s a great option, and now Confederate and [Lou’s] other son, Lou’s Pearlman, and his other son, Cannibal.

“Lou has kind of been, I think, a godsend for the industry… I think it’s only going to make him that much better. Yeah, he’s in a great spot.”

Three of Sweet Lou’s offspring combined to win seven races worth over $300,000 in the 3-year-old male pacing division alone. Presumptive Horse of the Year, Confederate, won the Meadowlands Pace ($668,000), Breeders Crown ($600,000), Kentucky Sires Stakes Championship ($400,000) and Cane Pace ($315,700), It’s My Show won the Little Brown Jug ($850,000) and North America Cup ($760,000) and Cannibal won the Adios ($350,000).

“Bob Heyden might be the one to ask if it’s ever been done like this where [one sire] kind of dominated just about every major 3-year-old [male] race,” Bowden said. “But then you add in all the 2-year-olds and the fillies and it was crazy.”

Sweet Lou is also the sire of standout pacing fillies Geocentric and My Girl EJ.

Diamond Creek Farm bred three of the 12 Dan Patch division champions: Bond, Confederate, and the aforementioned Geocentric. Diamond Creek is also the Grand Circuit Owner of the Year.

“I think it was always in the back of our mind that it was a possibility,” Bowden said. “Like the stars seemed aligned heading into the year for certain things to happen. Now, I wouldn’t have told you Bond would have been 3-year-old champion just because I figured Special Way was head and shoulders above everybody else. And I think she was before her setback in the middle of the year…

“I think it was always Marcus [Johansson’s] plan that if we were ever going to win Owner of the Year, it was going to be this year. And then, we’d set stuff up years before this and it was like a culmination of a whole lot of hard work and good fortune. You know, horses have to stay healthy and sound and everything needs to kind of fall into place, but it did.”

Even though it’s his name or that of his farm on the awards, Bowden is quick to point out Diamond Creek is a team effort and he has many to thank.

“All of those awards are a testament to all of the people at Diamond Creek, almost as much as it is me or maybe more so,” Bowden said. “They are the ones that put in the countless hours and, you know, at night, during the day when it’s raining out, when it’s cold. Marcus sits behind the horses no matter what temperature or weather it is. And the girls at the farm or the guys at the farm that are foaling these horses out or raising them and caring for them when they are sick and injured, they deserve a tremendous amount of credit and they never get it.

“Shaun Laungani (vice president), Gina Dailey (director of operations), Emily Pursell (PA farm manager/sales coordinator), Caroline Vazquez (director of marketing and syndications), Sam Herrington (office manager), Marcus Johansson (racing manager), Mikala Cecola, Aubree Cramer, Cameryn Oswald, Aracely Marin, Katherine Wyman, Rolando and Israel Santos, Bud Emmons, Dave Kilgore and James Dailey… the list could go on and on. Without this group of unsung heroes, Diamond Creek Farm would not have the ability to achieve the success it has this year and hopefully into the future.”

Bowden, who turns 43 in less than two weeks, expects to have a large group attending the Dan Patch awards hoping it will culminate in Confederate being honored as Horse of the Year.

“This is one of those deals where you can have an incredible career in this sport and never get all of these [awards] in one year, let alone just one of them,” Bowden said. “We could go another 20, 30, 40 years and not win Horse of the Year and still have a great career. So, we’re very, very thrilled to be here at this point in our career and, obviously, hope to do it again because it was one hell of a ride.”