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Wellsville-born pacer is favorite in $600,000 Breeders Crown event

KEN WEINGARTNER
YorkDispatch


When Adam Bowden and his father, Chris, bought female pacer Western Montana in the formative days of their Diamond Creek Farm in Wellsville a decade ago, it was with an eye toward the future.

Today, as Western Montana's undefeated 2-year-old daughter Pure Country prepares for Saturday's $600,000 Breeders Crown at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack, it appears as if the future is now.

Western Montana was purchased for $50,000 as a yearling at the 2005 Standardbred Horse Sale in Harrisburg and raced for the Bowdens the following two years, winning five of 16 starts and earning $175,010. She finished fourth in the 2006 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly pacers and her family includes a slew of stakes-winners.

Her pedigree was one of the major attractions for the Bowdens, who were starting their own breeding farm in York County. Western Montana produced winners with her first three foals, although none has earned more than $69,042. Then came the Somebeachsomewhere-sired Pure Country, who is 9-for-9 with multiple-stakes triumphs and had $389,968 in winnings. She was born at the Bowdens' farm.

"Western Montana was actually the fourth horse we ever bought, and from the beginning she was one that I thought we were going to keep all of her foals," Adam Bowden said. "We thought the pedigree was good enough that she was supposed to have a good horse somewhere along the way. For whatever reasons, the first three had issues here and there. They all had talent, but none of them sort of realized it.

"(Pure Country) was sort of the perfect specimen. She was never sick, she was never injured, she went about her business. We had her older sister Hunger Games, who also is by Somebeachsomewhere, and Pure Country was just a little bit bigger, a little bit more correct, and a little bit smarter than her sister was. We ended up selling Hunger Games after her 3-year-old year. My father and I debated about whether we would keep her or sell her. I told him the next one we have I think is a better filly than Hunger Games. It's worked out so far."

Breeders Crown favorite: The Jimmy Takter-trained Pure Country is the 2-5 morning line favorite in the Breeders Crown final for 2-year-old female pacers, which is one of 12 championship races Saturday at Woodbine. Takter is the winningest trainer in Breeders Crown history with 21 trophies and more than $9 million in purses.

He was impressed with the filly early on, saying in June she was "scary."

As Bowden recalled: "Jimmy felt she had a world of talent and she was either going to be really good or blow up in our face. Fortunately it's so far been the former rather than the latter."

Pure Country's wins include the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship at The Meadows in September and divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion stakes at the recently-concluded Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile. Last Saturday, she advanced to her Breeders Crown final with a 2-3/4 length win at Woodbine. She has been driven in every start by Brett Miller.

"I'm most impressed with her consistency and her ability to either race on the lead or follow," Bowden said. "She's been able to do both and she's got an unbelievable kick coming home. Most of the races, she's been 27-(seconds) flat or sub-27. That's pretty impressive so far."

The Bowdens have shared in ownership of one Breeders Crown winner, Father Patrick, but are looking for their first trophy with their own horse.

"I don't know if there's anything better than that," Bowden said about the possibility of having a homebred champion. "That would be the ultimate."

— Story by Ken Weingartner of Harness Racing Communications and the United States Trotting Association.