By Daniel Ross
The position of New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (NYTHA) president is up for grabs at a time of great upheaval for horse racing in the state.
The TDN has given time to each of the candidates for president, speaking with Chad Summers in Thursday's TDN, and today, with Tina Bond. Tina Bond is managing partner of Bond Racing Stable, with her trainer husband, James. She has also served on the NYTHA board for the past nine years, six of those as vice president.
The winner of the election will replace outgoing president Joe Appelbaum.
The following has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
TDN: In your biographical statement, you say that you are “committed to bringing stability to our industry and to ensuring the future of year-round racing in the state by bringing in new and younger owners and fans.” What exactly do you think needs to happen to stabilize the industry and attract new young talent and fans to the game?
Tina Bond: I think that in New York we need to have a strong annual race-day calendar so that all of our fans and our bettors know that we're going to race on these days, and I'd love to see the racetracks work together to stop conflicting with each other's post times.
I think there are a lot of programs that we could start to bring in more trainers and more horses to New York, especially during the winter. I think there's a lot of opportunity to grow our winter program in New York.
As far as the younger generation and the younger fans, we have the new Belmont redevelopment, and once that's done, we'll have a facility that will help, hopefully, bring in new fans. But I think there's a lot of other things that we can do to appeal.
I want to make sure this sport is here for future generations. For future owners, for future horsemen, like both of my sons, Kevin and Ryan who followed in their father's footsteps. Riley Mott. Miguel Clement. They've all chosen this path. They've all gone to college but they've all come back to this industry. And so, I feel very strongly that it is important to grow and make this sport stronger so that it will be here for them and maybe their children.
TDN: What programs do you think would bring trainers and more horses to New York?
TB: We have to start our program earlier–in July and August–to put out what we're going to do in the winter and maybe just embellish or make that program appealing. We have to do that in July and August so people can make plans. And we have to make it appealing enough for them to say, 'I want to do this.'
TDN: What kind of things could appeal for them to say, 'okay, I do want to do this'?
TB: I do think the consistency of a good racing calendar, and I think a very strong purse structure will do that.
TDN: Another thing you say is how you will “always prioritize the safety of the horses.” Are there current safety-related protocols or programs you'd like to see changed, introduced?
TB: I think we've made great strides in the last several years, and the breakdown rate has diminished greatly. But there is always room for improvement.
I think there are some new technologies that could make racing safer–whether it's the wearables on the horses=–nd I think there's a lot that we have to learn.
I think in terms of racing surfaces, Glen Kozak [New York Racing Association (NYRA) executive vice president of Operations and Capital Projects] is one of the best in the country. He does a great, great job with the racing surfaces. I just think that we can always do better and the safety of the horse has to come first.
TDN: Equine safety and welfare obviously overlaps with the work under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA). How do you see progress under HISA?
TB: HISA right now is in its infancy stages. There's a big learning curve. It's a huge project to take this on as a national endeavor.
One thing that I would really like to explore is funding possibilities. Whether it's grants or [something else], I just want to identify some alternative funding for HISA, which impacts a lot of the owners with the cost of this program.
TDN: You also mention how you'll “continue to fight for New York Racing and Breeding because of the wonderful platform it provides for the sport.” Are there additional things to be done to make the state's breeding industry stronger?
TB: The breeding program in New York is the strongest and the best breeding program in the country. That speaks for itself.
Number two, in 2026, there's going to be purse parity for the New York-breds in open company. That's going to have a huge impact. I think that we can all look forward to that.
As far as doing more, I think the New York breeders have looked into bringing more mares into New York state. I think they're working on other programs to do that.
While the New York-bred program is very healthy, the foal crop has gone down nationwide, and so, it's had an impact on every area of breeding in the country, not just New York.
It's the cost of breeding these animals to get them to the races. I mean, we [the Bond Racing Stable] do it all. Soup to nuts. From breeding to breaking our horses here at the farm to training and then we retire them. So, I know the economic impact is huge.
But I think these are industry-wide economic impacts. And I think we have fewer owners because of the economics of this whole industry.
TDN: This taps into a recent NYTHA-backed study by three interns from Yale highlighted some worrying industry-wide declines over the past 20 years. What are your key takeaways from that study?
TB: The economics don't work out to where it's a very profitable business plan.
TDN: So, where do you step in to change things?
TB: I'd like to work together with NYRA on making the purses stronger year-round. And I would like to be able to help owners tap into other revenue sources.
The owners bring their equine investments, which is their property, to the racetracks–presently, I don't believe that the owners are properly compensated for all they bring to the table. When I'm president, I'll discuss this with the new NYTHA board, and other industry leaders, to see if this is attainable. I believe it is.
TDN: What other issues do you see as priorities for any NYTHA president?
TB: We have to promote racing and highlight the positives of the sport if we're going to bring new and younger fans to it.
This year we partnered with NYRA. We did some farm tours at our farm, Song Hill Thoroughbreds, and it was amazing. We did it one day a week. There were two trolleys that came in with probably about 54 to 56 people each time. They just couldn't get enough.
I talked about bloodstock. I talked about pedigree analysis. I showed them mares and babies. We went through the whole thing–how we break horses. How we get sales candidates ready. They just couldn't get enough of it.
There are people out there that we just haven't tapped into yet. But they come to Saratoga, they love Saratoga, and this shows them behind the scenes. It's going to strengthen our fan base and give people an appreciation for these majestic animals and what we do.
The other thing: I'm probably going to operate a little bit differently, be a little bit more transparent. I would love to tap into not just our board members–there are a lot of wonderful people that are owners and trainers, and I would love for them to be able to come forward and help in whatever capacity they can.
I think there's a lot of untapped energy and assets that we just haven't even thought about yet.
TDN: What other ways do you propose to do that?
TB: As far as the good stories, whether we use a PR firm or whether we do a lot on social media. Maybe it's segments that air on “America's Day at the Races,” a wonderful program that NYRA and FOX has put together. It reaches a huge market of our fans and potential fans.
I talk about Bond Racing Stable, which is a partnership that I run. I've brought in over 100 new partners doing this. They're from all over the country. It allows them to do it on a fractional cost and fractional ownership to see if they like it. And some of them have gone on to buy their own horses. I think there are a lot of ways to tap into bringing people into the industry.
TDN: Chad Summers, in his Q&A, was critical of the NYTHA board, arguing that it hasn't done a good job at keeping its constituents informed of important goings on. Given your long standing on the board, what's your response? And what makes you the best person for this position?
TB: I believe I am the right person, with my background in breeding and racing and retiring horses. I've been on the board for nine years, six of them vice president. There's a lot that I've learned in those nine years. And there's a lot to becoming the president of NYTHA, including a strong alliance with the people in Albany. I've worked very hard over the years with the constituents in Albany.
I would like to be a little bit more proactive. Especially with the redevelopment, we have to make sure that everybody is up to date on what's going to happen. I understand what the industry is, and I am going to be as transparent as I possibly can be.
I have access to all parts of the industry from the horsemen to the backstretch. I do speak to a lot of the trainers on a daily basis. I think that I have a good network, and I will be accessible to whoever needs it. I believe that we have a great staff at NYTHA. There are boots on the ground. We just have to tap into those boots on the ground.