Tom Bowman stood in the Pimlico Race Course winner’s circle and smiled. Well, he laughed really. Because that’s all he could do.
Bowman, a veterinarian and successful breeder in Maryland for years, wound up part of the Triple Crown story as the co-breeder of California Chrome’s dam Love the Chase.
Officially, the Maryland-bred daughter of Not For Love and the Polish Numbers mare Chase It Down was bred by Bowman and Higgins Stable (a combination of the Bowman family and partner Milton Higgins). Sold for $30,000 as a 2-year-old at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic in 2008, Love the Chase went to California and–as the story goes–started out waiting tables and became an actress. She ran just six times, won once for an $8,000 claiming price, was purchased outright by original partners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin for that $8,000 and became a broodmare. Her first foal was California Chrome, the most famous horse in North America in 2014.
As he did when a horse he bred won the Maryland Hunt Cup, Bowman joked that he knew it all along. That he masterminded the whole thing. That it was all sort of some grand vision for each horse.
“It’s all X’s and O’s, you know?” he told me on Preakness Day with a wink. “We planned it all out on paper.”
Just like that scientist at DuPont who invented Teflon, an accident ultimately worth billions.
Love the Chase was no accident, and she’s not going to be worth billions anytime soon, but she is proof that good things come when you participate, when you work at something, when you invest your time and knowledge and life’s work in something you are about. Like the Teflon guy, Bowman works at it.
He, his wife Chris, and their children have participated in the Maryland Thoroughbred industry for decades. They’ve bred numerous state champions and talented Thoroughbreds at Dance Forth Farm in Chestertown and Roland Farm in Chesapeake City.
They are successful, on a variety of levels and at a variety of things (veterinary work, stallions, breeding, sales, racing). Tom is a past president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and a sought-after ally for the industry when it comes to politics, industry improvement and the future.
Like Love the Chase, some Bowman-breds have found callings outside of their original aims–most notably Bug River and Twill Do (who each won the Maryland Hunt Cup twice) and Good Night Shirt (one of three millionaires in American steeplechase history).
“Most of the successes you have in this game are, at best, happenstance, and many of them are absolutely accidental,” Bowman said after watching Good Night Shirt win a Grade 1 jump race in 2008. “All the plotting, planning and thinking you do and many of the successes come out of left field. It’s humbling, it kind of lets you know that you’re not as bright as you might think you are.”
And therein lies the real lesson for anybody taking part in the great mystery of this Thoroughbred game. Nature is in charge.
The animals matter every bit as much–probably more–than the humans. The horses can be fast, slow, good, bad, mean, friendly, happy, sad, excitable, placid, strong, weak, big, small, graceful, awkward. You can ponder pedigrees and contemplate conformation all you want, and those things are important, but the efforts are far from guaranteed. The beautifully correct, brilliantly fast 2-year-old might never make it to the races. The slow mare might produce a dual classic winner.
Just ask Tom Bowman.