Marvin Katz is passing the torch

Starting in 2025, Adam Bowden will become the new head of the Breeders Crown Charity Challenge.

by Debbie Little

The Breeders Crown Charity Challenge (BCCC) has the best 1-2 punch in the business as Adam Bowden joins creator Marvin Katz as co-chair for 2024.

Katz and Bowden contacted HRU earlier this week to share the good news.

“I would like to advise the world that Adam Bowden is going to become the head of the Breeders Crown Charity Challenge,” Katz said. “We’re going to do it together this year, co-chairing at The Meadowlands, and then beginning next year, Adam Bowden will take over the mantle and I’m thrilled, proud, pleased, and excited that someone of Adam’s stature and abilities is going to be taking it over. I think it’s time.”

The Charity Challenge, which has donated over $1.5 million to 24 different charities, is the brainchild of Katz, and even though he has presided over it from the beginning in 2019, he told HRU prior to The Meadowlands hosting the Breeders Crown and Charity Challenge in 2021, that he was looking to step down and pass the torch.

“John Campbell coined a phrase that I really like,” said Katz. “I would tell John my pink slip’s in the mail and he said to me ‘Marvin, the mail ain’t what it used to be.’ So, he keeps telling me he hasn’t received my resignation. I’ve already tendered my resignation, but he’s got a hearing problem and a mail problem.”

According to Katz, Bowden is the perfect person to move his vision forward.

“I think it’s appropriate that it’s someone who’s young and who’s as involved in the business as Adam, and is one of the leading principles in the business,” Katz said. “It will be in good hands with him.”

Back in 2021, Moira Fanning, chief operating officer of the Hambletonian Society, told HRU why the involvement of Katz made the BCCC such a success.

“People don’t say ‘no’ to Marvin because he’s Marvin and because of his position in the industry, his commitment in the industry,” said Fanning. “It never was supposed to be a Marvin initiative. Our host tracks were supposed to take over because it really does benefit them. It’s their charities. It is supposed to benefit the long-term relationship of these host tracks with [their community].”

As someone who has supported the Charity Challenge from its inception, Bowden knows how big the shoes are that he’s attempting to fill, however, when Katz called to ask him to eventually take over, he only had one answer.

“You already know the answer,” Bowden said, adding with a laugh, “Marvin called and asked and you can’t say no to him, so here we are. I mean, he asked and he explained it. Like he said, I participated in the program from the beginning. I know what it’s about. I know its importance to the industry internally and externally, and I think that that’s the key piece. We continue to recycle our own money all the time, and I think this shows the sport and the outside world what we can do when we put our heads together.

“And I think it’s four wonderful causes and I’m very happy that he asked me. I’m honored and hopefully I can live up to it.”

Katz has worked hard for the BCCC to continue to evolve.

Even though they are still finalizing the details for some of this year’s events, Katz and Bowden are delighted with the stallion lineup — Walner, Chapter Seven, Tactical Landing and Karl — that they already have committed to this year’s Charity Auction.

In the past, the four Charity Challenge teams have each consisted of a driver and trainer, however, in 2024, each team will also have an owner. This year’s drivers are Dexter Dunn, Yannick Gingras, David Miller and Tim Tetrick, with trainers Tony Alagna, Marcus Melander, Ake Svanstedt and Nancy Takter, and inaugural owners Brad Grant, Mark Weaver, Bill Pollock and Anders Strom. The team lineups will be announced at a later date.

They also plan to bring back the extremely popular Charity Dash at The Red Mile and Bowden will lead a group that will expand their social media footprint. 

“I think I would say most people are very happy to contribute, but at the same time, I think regular people aren’t exposed to what we’re doing and I think that’s the next evolution of this, to introduce it to the casual fan,” Bowden said. “So like Marvin said, we’re going to put together a social media/marketing team to sell it to the public, basically to teach them what we’re doing, so that during the Breeders Crown, when we’re presenting all this money to the different charities, people understand and have, hopefully, bought into what we’re doing.”

Katz added, “There used to be a saying that if you weren’t on TV, you didn’t exist. Well, I think today if you’re not on social media, you don’t exist and we need to be on social media in a real way, not just by happenstance, but in a real way. And part of this year’s program is to make that the case.”

According to Katz, one new event that they are perhaps most looking forward to involves a day trip for children to Alagna’s farm in central New Jersey.

“Tony Alagna has a new farm in New Jersey and Tony was excited to join in with the kids’ day at the farm,” Katz said.

Bowden added, “I think Marvin and I, and probably everybody else, agree that Tony might be the best person in the entire sport to host something like that. I just think his personality and his openness and willingness to speak to the public and the kids and everybody else, he is the perfect person.”

Katz said the plan calls for some food trucks and possibly a t-shirt and a baseball cap for the kids and the TV crew from The Meadowlands will be there to record it.

“We’re going to have an experience that we haven’t had before,” Katz said. “And it’s a way of exposing children who would never be at a horse farm or never able to pet a horse or have that type of experience and again, it’s all a part of the Breeders Crown celebration.”

Meadowlands chief operating officer/general manager Jason Settlemoir is happy to have The Meadowlands once again play host to the Breeders Crown and the Charity Challenge. The Crown finals are on Friday and Saturday (Oct. 25-26).

“I love the Breeders Crown Charity Challenge,” Settlemoir said. “This is a way our sport can give back to those in need. It’s always a pleasure to work with Katz and Bowden, so I’m really looking forward to this again in 2024.

“We really put our hearts and souls into trying to help those less fortunate than us. That was something instilled in me as a young child growing up by my family and Jeff [Gural] has never told me no or passed up an opportunity to help someone or those in need. It’s been impressive to watch our industry rally around this cause. It really does bring a smile to both mine and Jeff’s faces.”

According to Katz, many people have supported the Charity Challenge from Day 1. In addition to Bowden, he wanted to give a tip of the cap to Alagna, Brittany Farms, Dunn, Gingras, Tom Grossman, Kentuckiana Farms, Mike Klau, Melander, Miller, David Reid, Takter and Tetrick. He also apologized to those that he knows he failed to mention.

“These people have been constant contributors to it and they deserve to be acknowledged,” Katz said. “I’ve said this numerous times that it’s the industry that should be celebrated; they’re the real champions here because they realize the importance of what we’ve created. They realize that this is now a real thing that is an important part of our business and it’s getting bigger and better. I’m sure I’ve missed a few and I apologize for that.

“Adam’s been one of the staunchest supporters of the concept from its beginnings. I cannot say enough about him, and that’s what led me to believe he would be the best source for taking over the reins.”

Katz and Bowden have been dividing up the work so far this year, and although no one has said no to him yet, Bowden plans to keep an ace up his sleeve.

“And that’s why Marvin will probably never actually get to step away because I’ll have to lean on him because people have no problem telling me no,” Bowden said with a laugh. “So, I’m going to have to be like ‘You either say yes or I’m going to get Marvin on the phone.’”

Katz is proud of how the sport has and continues to support the Charity Challenge.

“I think that people quickly recognized what we were doing was to give back to every community that was hosting the Breeders Crown,” Katz said. “We’ve now raised over $1.5 million and I’m hopeful that we’re going to get up near $2 million this year or darn close to it, hopefully. And that’s not a casual accomplishment, that’s significant. People quickly saw what was happening and every year started to embrace it more and more.

“I’m pleased we’ve created something that’s become an integral part of the Breeders Crown celebration. Every racetrack that it’s been at, was thrilled and finds it to be an important part of hosting the Breeders Crown. I just think it does nothing but present our business in the best way possible. And I think having Adam on board will just make it bigger and better.”