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Three Diamonds Finds Success On and Off Track

MarketWatch Interview: Jordan Wycoff

Jordan Wycoff (front) leads Cross Border into the winner's circle at Saratoga Race Course

Jordan Wycoff (front) leads Cross Border into the winner's circle at Saratoga Race Course

Courtesy of Jordan Wycoff

Since the early 2000s, Three Diamonds Farm has continued to increase their footprint in the Thoroughbred industry. Owned by the Wycoff family, the operation now includes racing, breeding, sales, and pinhooking ventures. With recent successes on the track at Saratoga Race Course, BloodHorse Marketwatch spoke to Three Diamonds' managing partner, Jordan Wycoff, about how his family's farm has branched out through the years and how they've managed to achieve success in almost every facet of the business. 

MarketWatch: When did you start racing under the name Three Diamonds Farm? 

Jordan Wycoff: We started racing in the early 2000s mostly in Maryland with Mike Trombetta. From our background, both my parents were in the show jumping world as kids and my father had his training license way back in the day. He would take horses off the track and try to retrain them to be jumpers. He took a hiatus until early 2000 when we bought a couple 2-year-olds and kept them with Trombetta at Fair Hill. It grew from there. We've been running with Mike Maker now about 10 years since we wanted to get bigger and run in New York.

Since then we've slowly branched out. We have a handful of broodmares and mostly breed to sell but we do race homebreds. We're also very active in pinhooking yearlings to 2-year-olds. Again, those we don't sell we will race. We also pinhook some weanlings to yearlings as well. My dad and I have a hand in all aspects of the market fortunately or unfortunately.

MW: Do you have your own farm under the Three Diamonds name or are your horses spread across several venues? 

JW: We don't have a farm as of yet. It's been in the works but our home base is Bluewater Farm. Meg Levy and her son, Ryder Finney, have a big role in the broodmares and pinhooking our weanlings to yearlings. Meg does a lot of work with the horses off the track. She's had a really big hand in a lot of our bigger horses including Cross Border and Bigger Picture. She does a great job with the layups. Our horses go to Bluewater first and then to WinStar. A lot of our horses are based in Kentucky. We do have some New York mares that stay with Bill Johnson and we also have some at Sequel.

MW: In addition to pinhooking and breeding you have also claimed several successful horses that have gone on to win stakes. What do you look for when claiming? 

JW: The first claim we ever made was Jimanator with Trombetta, who ended up being a grade 3 winner. When we wanted to race more we started claiming a lot more around 2007 or 2008. We still claim a lot of horses but we like to claim ones that have pedigrees that get better with age and distance and if there is turf in the family it's a bonus. From the claiming point of view, we like to focus on younger horses that could improve with age.

Mike (Maker) is great at stretching hoses out and building up their stamina. He works them slower and longer and we've found that it helps them mentally because they feel better every day they go to the track. If we can get them mentally feeling good and in races that are more competitive that they can win, we've had great success with them climbing the ladder up into stakes conditions. Mike has had a lot of success claiming older horses but we like younger horses that could be a good 4 or 5-year-old with a switch in surface or company.

MW: How many horses are in training with Three Diamonds Farm? 

JW: I would say we have anywhere, at any given time, 25 to 45 horses in training. We don't like it to get that big but it sometimes just grows specially when the 2-year-olds come along.

MW: In light of the recent market decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, did you have to make any changes to your buying and selling strategies for the horses you have bred or pinhooked?

JW: We didn't make many changes. I think if we thought a horse had ability we weren't willing to take the discount the market was giving us. But the sales, I thought were pretty good and strong. The first Ocala Breeders' Sale in the middle of the uncertainty, the middle market was lacking, but if you had the goods there were horses that brought a lot of money. Even at (Fasig-Tipton) in Timonium, Md., and at the second OBS sale, we felt like things were strong even with uncertainty. We kept a few more than we probably would have but we love to race and we have no problem taking them to the track. 

MW: Will you be as active this year during the yearling sales? 

JW: We look for horses in a price range that we feel, if they go to the next level, they don't have to be at the top of the market. We like to be in the $60,000 to $120,000 type of range. I think if anyone tells you what the yearling market will be like this year they're taking a guess because I don't think anyone knows. 

We're going to be active at the yearling sales like we usually are but with the uncertainty and the fact that it's an election year, we're going to be expecting to find discounts. Whether they will exist or not I don't think anybody knows. We can all agree that the top of the market will be strong but it depends on what the 2-year-old pinhookers will do and what kind of presence they will have. I think if you see a hit in any market it'll be the broodmare market especially if we don't have any foreign presence. They've been buying a lot of the top, top mares. 

MW: Cross Border won the Bowling Green Stakes (G2T) at Saratoga Aug. 1 having just won the Lubash Stakes July 22 at the same track. With such as short period of time for Cross Border to run back, were you worried at all heading into the Bowling Green? 

JW: We like to think that we are in the more conservative camp where they should get 4-5 weeks in between races but he is a high strung horse in general. When we bought him he was coming out of Woodbine, was high strung, and had a lot of issues like soreness in his back but once we got him happy he got so much stronger. We entered him in the Manhattan (G1T) because it looked a little light and he looked like the lone speed. He ran his race, did very good, and then we were planning on going to Saratoga and the Lubash was going with a short field. Because it was interesting conditions I talked to Mike (Maker) and said, "It's back quicker than we would like." But we looked at it and it looked like he would be the overwhelming favorite. I said, "Mike if the horse is doing good and you want to run him let's run him."

He's a high-strung horse but he also gets in dog fights. The Lubash was interesting to see if he would make it a fight but when we saw him run away from that field it was like watching a switch being flipped. We'd never seen him get to the front and keep going. He galloped out clear of the field and they could barely pull him up. Mike said the next couple mornings in the barn he was dragging the hot walker. They called us and said the Bowling Green was coming up short as well and to be fair, I told Mike I didn't think it was the best idea but if he thought the horse had no ill effects after the Lubash we could try it. Obviously the horse likes Saratoga and what we also figured out is that he likes a target. He didn't cross the wire first in the Bowling Green but he got the right result. He deserves a break now but I'm not sure he'll get one. We will probably have the ability to run him one more time at Saratoga and knock on wood he's been up to his same antics. It doesn't seem like the race took too much out of him. 

Cross Border (2) wins 2020 Bowling Green Stakes at Saratoga
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand
Cross Border (inside) is placed first in the Bowling Green Stakes at Saratoga Race Course

MW: Do you already have a next target in mind? 

JW: We would think about the West Point Handicap which I think is Saratoga closing weekend. But with long grass races coming together like the Sword Dancer (G1T) and the Old Forester (Bourbon Turf Classic, G1T) … I think we might be tempted to run in the Sword Dancer because it seems like the division will be spread out. Because it's a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" it's very tempting. 

MW: As an owner who operates in several aspects of the business, what has been the most difficult part of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

JW: I think it's the uncertainty that we're all facing. However, I think probably part of the reason we're having such a good time at Sararoga is because of the shut down. We have a lot of grass horses and when Gulfstream Park gets tough we like to give them a break over the winter so they're ready in March or April. This year we had a lot of horses that were ready to run but nowhere to run them. That's why I think we were able to bring fresher horses to Saratoga. 

That being said, the uncertainty has been hard. When you have a stable like ours with maidens, claimers, and stakes horses we have to win purses to supplement the business. The 2-year-old market was strong but we play in the middle which was affected, we were also planning to sell horses at the (Fasig-Tipton) July Sale and in Saratoga. With those sales being pushed back, I think we will have to bring a lot of horses to the market to sell because of the pause we got and how we run the business with cash flow from the purses and from selling horses in July.