Kirkpatrick & Co Presents In Their Care: Bond Shedrow Is A Family Business by Tom Pedulla|09.29.2020|2:27pm (L to R) Ryan, James, Tina, and Kevin Bond Trainer H. James Bond, his wife Tina and their sons, Kevin and Ryan, have Song Hill Thoroughbreds, an idyllic 177-acre farm in Mechanicville, N.Y. They have a 42-horse racing stable of such quality that they won 12 races from 40 starts during Saratoga's prestigious summer meet. Their runners hit the board 63 percent of the time on behalf of their clients. They have 17 broodmares and a dozen retired Thoroughbreds, the latter a reflection of their commitment to make certain every horse they breed will always have a home. For all that the Bonds worked to obtain, what they have, more than anything, is each other. Kevin was struck by that during this strange fan-free summer at Saratoga. Picnic tables, occupied by the same families for generations, were empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When their horses entered the winner's circle, there was no applause from the grandstand. In one sense, it hardly seemed to matter. “You turn to your dad, you turn to your brother. You high-five each other or whatever,” Kevin said. “There is no greater gratification than that, just to know that everybody is on the same team and just proud of each other.” Those heartwarming moments can be traced to the ailing heart of James' father, Harold, a trainer in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. Due to his father's medical issues, James was forced to abandon his dream of becoming a veterinarian to obtain his trainer's license on his 16th birthday. James would arrive at the barn at 4 a.m. and begin his high school classes once that work was done. He is forever grateful to an understanding guidance counselor who would arrange his schedule to allow him to shower at school before he attended his first class. Perhaps the early start helped James, who turns 63 in October, build on what came before him as a third-generation horseman. His operation has totaled more than $45 million in purses. He is a two-time winner of the Whitney Handicap, with Travers victor Will's Way in 1997 and with Tizway in 2011. He has been prominent on the international stage, with a third-place finish by L'Carriere in the 1996 Dubai World Cup and a runner-up effort by Behrens in that same event in 2000. James is a pillar of the lucrative New York breeding program as a breeder and trainer. He estimates that 80 percent of his stock is comprised of New York-breds. He said of the opening of Song Hill in 2007: “We wouldn't have this farm without New York-breds. It was the basis of our decision to build this farm.” While James had no choice but to take over his ailing father's business, Kevin and Ryan were initially encouraged to pursue other careers after completing their college educations. James, Kevin and Ryan Bond “It's a hard industry. It's hard on family life if you're not all in it together because you can't get away,” said Tina. “I did try to push them in another direction.” Kevin studied business management at Lynn University. Ryan was a finance major at Florida Atlantic. It did not take either of them very long to make their way back to the track. “I really didn't see myself in an office,” said Ryan. Neither did Kevin. Both determined that nothing could match the adrenaline rush that goes with watching a horse they bred compete on the rugged New York circuit and elsewhere. “There is always something to look forward to with one horse or another. There is a lot of action,” Ryan said. “It doesn't feel like work.” Tina admits that her role as business manager very much feels like work. She takes pride in her sharp pencil. “You have to run a smart business to keep everything afloat. It's an important part of the business, just not as much fun as what they do,” she said. “They work seven days a week. So do I.” James treasures the time with his sons at the barn. “I thought they both were going to go in different directions,” he said. “I always told them they both had jobs if they needed it, and they both came back. It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.” James makes decisions on various matters after seeking input from other family members. Some disagreements are inevitable. “There are more pros than cons to it because we all know we are looking out for each other, we are looking out for the family's best interests,” Kevin said. Their shared goal is to produce a Kentucky Derby winner. James thought he had one after Buddha won the Wood Memorial in 2002 – only to suffer a crushing disappointment. Buddha had to be scratched two days before the Derby with a foot injury. “There was no doubt in my mind he would have been the Derby winner if we could have led him over that day,” James said. “You try to build that mountain and, all of a sudden, you just go tumbling down. It's hard, but I would have hated to hurt the horse.” With the Bonds, the horse comes first from the moment of conception. They attach a postcard to the foaling papers of each horse they breed that contains their contact information in case that horse ever needs a home. That is typical of the way the family conducts business. “It's all about integrity. Basically, you build your life up to have a name. That's what I hope to leave them, a good name to carry on and, hopefully, have the same good fortune or better than I had,” said James, looking ahead to the fourth generation. Tom Pedulla wrote for USA Today from 1995-2012 and has been a contributor to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Blood-Horse, America's Best Racing and other publications. If you wish to suggest a backstretch worker as a potential subject for In Their Care, please send an email to [email protected] that includes the person's name and contact information in addition to a brief description of the employee's background.