Hidden amongst a strong set of Canadian connected contenders in the 2010 Breeders' Cup is the two year-old gelding Madman Diaries.
Madman Diaries takes the turn at Churchill Downs
The Bring the Heat fellow was bred by trainer Wesley Ward in Florida and following a second place finish at Keeneland in his first lifetime start, Madman Diaries wrote a lethal comeback at Woodbine wiring a field of maidens by nine and three quarter lengths. The result was no anomaly as the speedy sort followed that winning entry with a nine and a half length romp in the Victoria Stakes. It is here where 29 year-old Orangeville, Ontario native Warren Byrne took notice and engaged his business partner Robert Teel to purchase a stake in the horse they're happy to share with Ward.
"A good trainer is very important for me," said Byrne, from the the comfortable setting of the exquisite Turf Lounge situated in downtown Toronto. "I need a trainer I have faith in. We have Ferneley with Ben Cecil. We have two with Rick Dutrow (Homeboy Kris, Amen Hallelujah), who I love, and then Madman with Wesley Ward. Wes still owns half of Madman Diaries so I know whatever he does, he's doing with his own best intentions."
Madman Diaries followed up his Victoria win with a troubled second-place finish in the Colin Stakes, on July 17th at Woodbine, when checked late. Ward freshened the young horse returning to the races at Monmouth, over the dirt on September 4th, sprinting to victory in the six furlong G3 Sapling Stakes.
The way he trained on the dirt at Saratoga convinced Ward that Madman Diaries would make the transition. So did his breeding. "If you look into his pedigree, his mother's mother was Meafara, probably the fastest filly or mare sprinter ever," Ward said. "She was beaten twice in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and that's what made me want to run him on it."
Byrne was impressed with the versatility of his latest acquisition who does have turf influences through his damsire Outflanker.
"That (Sapling win) opened up a whole new avenue," smiled Byrne. "At the time, he was broke on the dirt, trained well over the dirt...but when he ran so well on it we thought lets not go back and forth. We can always go back to poly later."
Cross-entered in the Juvenile and Juvenile Turf, the connections opted for the latter which means the versatile gelding will need to add two new tricks to his repertoire if he is to hit the board on Saturday - first, he must demonstrate omnisurface ability to win over the weeds and, second, he must prove that he can make the mile distance.
"What I like is that when he got headed in the Sapling he went on again," stated Byrne. "If he gets passed, he's in trouble but if he can see the horse coming he's a tough horse to beat. Alex Solis has been working him and says he'll get two turns."
Byrne knows their horse is in tough facing European shippers Mantoba (the 9-2 morning line favourite) and the Aidan O'Brien trained Master of Hounds who is Group 1 placed. But the affable Byrne is up for the challenge.
"We've got to go a long way and we know were up against it," said Byrne. "However, in my experience if a horse is going to get two turns it'll be the first time they do it. If they can do it."
There's another challenge looming on the horizon for Byrne as he plans to launch Rush Racing - a first of its kind racing partnership in Canada. The venture will look to provide new and existing owners an opportunity to invest in the racing game with a focus on undervalued Canadian horses. And Byrne should know a thing or two about judging horses having grown up prepping yearlings on his family farm, the well-regarded Canadian breeding operation - Park Stud. Byrne added to that invaluable experience by working for Coolmore Stud and WinStar Farm where he was able to assist with some of the best horses in the world including Van Nistelrooy and Andromeda's Hero.
Marchfield is the latest champion to stand at Park Stud
"When you're looking at horses to buy them, you're tying to find a mold and when you're around enough good ones that image burns into your head," admitted Byrne. "So when you go around to try and look at them (to buy) you're trying to find that cookie cutter horse."
There are two key elements for Byrne when identifying new talent.
"Athleticsim and balance," stated Byrne. "Most of my business is buying made racers so I get to see a bit more than somebody going to buy yearlings. But, then again, you pay a premium to get into the animals you get into but I'm right more than I'm wrong."
Byrne has demonstrated that success with the purchase of MadMan Diaries and the turf runner Ferneley. And earlier this year Byrne and partner Robert Teel enjoyed a bit of Derby Fever (click the link for the inside story as penned by Byrne) when they purchased an interest in Derby starter Homeboy Kris (16th, having lost a shoe in the first quarter mile) and Oaks starter Amen Hallelulah (6th).
Byrne and his crew will fight another uphill battle at Churchill Downs on Saturday but the energetic Canadian and his Rancho Park Management moniker is no stranger to success having overseen horses that won or placed in the G1 Woodbine Mile, G1 Acorn, G2 Strub and the G3 Prix du Calvados.
Ferneley finished second, to Ventura, in the 2009 Woodbine Mile
Ever enthused about the sport of horse racing, Byrne hopes to share his joy of the game with a plethora of new partners via Rush Racing.
"This game has given me so many amazing experiences," said Byrne. "All I want is for more people to see and experience what I love. I think I've got the model down to make that work."
And on Saturday, Madman Diaries just might add a special little thrill to Byrne's ongoing racing journal.
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I'll have more info on Canadian connections heading to the Breeders' Cup as the week moves along. In case you missed my earlier posts, click on the links to read Woodbine to BC2010: New Normal Proving to be Exceptional or Woodbine to BC 2010: Wyomia Going For Gold in Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Keep track of the latest horse racing news by clicking into TripleDeadHeat's Woodbine News page or join in on the conversation by following TripleDeadHeat on Twitter.