Working in racing has always been a stressful occupation; a roller-coaster of emotions, triumphs and tragedies, long hours and travel. Add a global pandemic and unprecedented economic worry, with many participants fearing for their health, livelihoods and businesses, and the stress can become almost overwhelming. It’s the sort of topic many people don’t like to talk about, but we asked several industry participants to open about what particular stresses they were feeling during these very concerning times, and how they were dealing with them.
CRAIG BANDOROFF, Denali Stud
This business is stressful ALL the time. Nobody reading this needs me to go into the specifics or myriad ways. But above all else, the thing I have found in my career that really makes this business so hard is that the percentage of success is so small. Racing, breeding, mares, stallions, pinhooking, whichever facet you look at, the percentage of good outcomes is very small. The opportunities to give good news is infrequent. So often when you call someone, it’s a hard call to make.
With COVID, we’re sitting here as the yearling sales approach with no idea what the market is going to be like. All indicators say it will be down and that it will be tough. The big question is are foreigners going to be allowed to attend. And if so, will they attend even if we find a way to get them here? It just adds to what already is a difficult business and environment. Fortunately, there’s people who love it and want to do it despite how hard it is.
I have the advantage of being an elder statesman now. I’ve been through lots of things from caterpillars to recessions and down cycles before. I feel like there is very little that could happen that I haven’t seen. Obviously this is a very different situation, but we’ve been doing this a long time and have managed to get through difficult years before. Because of that, I have the confidence that we will get through this one.
I think the main thing that helps me sleep at night is recognizing what’s important. How much your horse brings at the sale, although it’s significant, in the scheme of things we are just selling horses, not saving lives. As long as we and our loved ones have our health and safety, and we are surrounded by people who love us, those are the things that are truly important. So we need to remind ourselves of what’s important and keep things in perspective.
I find I have to read the news less and enjoy a good book more. I remind myself, Conrad and our team: We can only control what we can control. Finally, remember what our grandmothers told us: This too shall pass.