Even though it's only a short walk away from the main track, Jim Bond's private barn off of Gridley Street feels miles away from the bustle of Saratoga Race Course. (Editor's note: Originally published in Aug. 28 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
"I am very fortunate," Bond said last week. "It's a small piece of heaven over here. It's very quiet and it's good for the horses I'd like to think."
With a slight breeze blowing through the high rafters of the custom barn, horses poke their heads out of stalls adorned with 007 plaques, some being ridden around the front jogging track, others cooling out under the tall trees draping over the backyard. The facility is decked out with turn-out pens, temporary stalls for nervous horses, ceiling and regular fans, a scale used weekly and a team operating as a well-oiled machine.
"I'm the luckiest man in the world to have the crew we have," Bond said. "Most of the crew we have has been here eight or nine years. It is 99 percent management and 1 percent luck. The gate does have to open and you do have to get through, but you can make a lot of your own destiny.
"I want the horses happy in a controlled environment, as best we can. If you keep them happy like you would an employee they will perform at their max for you and they have so far for me for quite a few years."
Bond, who's trained Grade 1 winners Will's Way, Behrens and Tizway, owns a 100-acre farm in Mechanicville with his wife Tina where they hope to breed the next generation of talent.
"This is the toughest place in the world, I pinch myself just about every day that I'm here," said Bond. "At the end of the day, when you have a homebred win, like I told Johnny (Velazquez) the other day when he rode Orino magnificently and got him home, I said, 'I want to thank you, you rode him so good and I want to thank you from my family.' Because that's what it is here."
The Bond stable won four races from 21 starters through Saturday. Bond sat in his office last week, sporting a Tizway cap, and discussed some of the members of his Saratoga string with The Special's Shayna Tiller.
Orino: Bond's homebred Raffle's Majesty 6-year-old won an allowance Aug. 20. "Probably the stable martyr, the oldest horse in the barn and our heaviest at 1,328 pounds. He's been a little bit unlucky breaking, so we kind of fine-tuned him out of the gate and it worked. I don't know if he'll run back at the meet but he ran a great race and brought some money home for the family. He was born on our farm. We had the mother and I trained the sire."
Timepiece: Unraced 2-year-old son of Smart Strike cost $180,000 as a yearling. "He's a very, very nice Smart Strike colt. We gave a pretty good sum of money for him. He's just a forward acting, well-moving, most likely a grass horse. We'll probably see him in the next 60 days possibly going one turn at Belmont, something like that. He seems to be a real special individual, owned by Mr. (William) Clifton, who's our big account of course, had Tizway, Will's Way, numerous great horses."
Our Way: Clifton's 3-year-old Tizway gelding finished second in the Sophomore Turf Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in April and won an allowance at Saratoga July 23. Entered in Monday's Better Talk Now. "Jose Ortiz gave him a wonderful ride last time and he's entered in the Better Talk Now (Monday). Very handy horse. Always shows up and runs a great race. He's awesome. Just a good classy horse, honest horse."
Zealous: Clifton's 2-year-old Tiznow colt, a $150,000 yearling purchase, has posted three 3-furlong breezes. "Another nice 2-year-old in the barn, with a cool name. He's probably my tallest and second heaviest horse in the barn, 1,298 pounds to be exact. He's out of a really nice mare, Royale Michele. This horse is pretty special, a horse that's got a nice, strong demeanor about him and the most beautiful stride."
Sport: Clifton's 3-year-old Hard Spun colt finished eighth in maiden race Saturday after back-to-back fourths at Saratoga and Belmont in his previous two tries. "He's probably been a little unlucky, probably should have broke his maiden at Gulfstream and got trapped down inside and broke kind of slow. He came flying on a course where you kind of have to hold speed from downtown. He ran into a horse of Todd's that they say was a maiden, but didn't look like a maiden (Mongolian Prince). This horse just had as much trouble as Irad (Ortiz) said, 'That was my worst ride of all time.' Old Irad doesn't make many mistakes, needless to say."
Letterman: Clifton purchased the 2-year-old son of Hard Spun for $250,000 as a yearling. He's out of Isobel Baillie, by Lomitas, and has worked 3 furlongs twice on the Oklahoma Training Track. "He is a full brother to Sport. Really nice moving horse. We'll start within the next 60 days, I would think pretty easily the way he's training. He's just a super, super individual and a better put together individual than even Sport. He's kind of pretty."
Trek: Unraced 2-year-old son of Awesome Again out of Golden Missile mare Starship Cruiser has worked twice on the Oklahoma Training Track. "The way he bows his head, the way he trains in the morning, he trains with a purpose. You can just tell he wants to be a racehorse. Kind of a neat horse to be around and he seems to have some ability so we'll keep our fingers crossed."
Altesino: Homebred Posse gelding for Bond's Song Hill Thoroughbreds is out of the unraced Behrens mare Mystical Lady. "One of the Mrs.'s horses that has not run yet that I have been fond of. Came out of Florida just about ready to run and came with a little tiny issue and we had to put him away for 30 days at our farm. He's up to a half. Just a magnificent looking individual with a lot of upside. I just really like this horse, from one of our mares Mystical Lady, that's unfortunately gone now. He just gives me a really good feeling in the morning."
Pira: Bond Racing Stable's 3-year-old homebred Jump Start filly broke her maiden for a $40,000 tag at Saratoga Aug. 19. "A little filly that won for us last week. She's disappointing in honesty. She ran a very good race as a 2-year-old, came out with an issue, we put her away, did everything right by her and we were searching for different surfaces. Brought her back on the turf and she didn't run the way that I thought. Being a daughter of Jump Start I said, 'let's try her on the dirt,' which didn't go so well. She had a great ride by Shaun Bridgmohan the other day, saved a lot of ground. Wasn't a stellar field but she got the job done and that was nice for the home team."
Mascarello: Bond family homebred 4-year-old Langfuhr gelding finished second in a maiden claimer at Belmont June 4 and is entered in Monday's second. "He's still a maiden but he ran a very nice race on the grass in his last start and I've always wanted to see him on the turf. Unfortunately he came out of that race with an issue and was off for three months. It should be interesting the way he's been training."
Empressof The Nile: Clifton's Pioneerof The Nile filly breezed 5 furlongs in 1:03.19 on the Oklahoma Training Track Aug. 20, her fifth work. "This filly really is a nice filly. She wants it. She's just got that drive and desire and is a big, good-looking rangy filly. Moves in the right direction and does the right thing."
Pleasant Breeze: The 21-year-old Pleasant Tap gelding was a multiple graded stakes winner of $1.2 million for Clifton and Bond from 1998 to 2003. Two of his biggest wins came in races no longer run - the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup and Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap. "The most famous horse is the pony. Most people don't realize, he's a very big, good-looking 16- almost 17-hand pony that my sons Kevin and Ryan ride. He's the greatest horse in the barn. He is a perfect horse."