Breeder's Cup Presents Fresh Faces: Denali's Next Generation
Conrad Bandoroff grew up on Denali Stud, which was established by his parents, well-known consignors Craig and Holly. The younger Bandoroff shadowed John Ward in Ward’s days as trainer, worked for trainer Bill Mott, interned with Bradley Thoroughbreds and for John Messara at Arrowfield Stud in Australia. Bandoroff is currently completing his senior year at Sewanee: The University of the South.
Obviously you grew up in the Thoroughbred world, but what is it about the sport that’s made you want to make a career in it?
Despite growing up in the business, my parents never really wanted me to pursue a career in horses, as they know how hard a game it is. Like many others though, I caught the racing bug at a young age, and when the bug bites you there’s no turning back. I’ve spent my life growing up around these majestic, beautiful horses, and it’s hard for me to imagine doing something else and being fulfilled at the end of the day.
I assume you spent a lot of time on the farm at Denali as you were growing up. Do you have a favorite memory from that experience?
My fondest memories of the farm are walking the fields and paddocks in the afternoon with my dad. He would point out mares and tell me about their racetrack performances or teach me conformation looking at a foal. Walking the farm is still one of my favorite things to do to just get away and enjoy the beauty of the farm and be around the horses. I also would work summers on the farm prepping yearlings, and watching the horses develop throughout sales prep was always something I really enjoyed.
Do you have a favorite ‘Animal Kingdom’ story, after all the time the Denali crew spent around him?
How can you pick just one? That horse gave us a lifetime of stories, and I feel like my favorite one changes every time I think about it. Right now though, my favorite AK story is that when I was in Australia studying abroad for eight months, I had the opportunity to do an internship with Arrowfield Stud where Animal Kingdom stands at stud. During my portion of the internship when I was on the farm, I was fortunate enough to be on hand to witness and help with the foaling of AK’s first ever foal. To have been able to follow him throughout his career, from a yearling to his days on the track, being able to witness his first foal really brought it all full-circle for me.
What area of the sport would you like to work in once you graduate, and why?
After I graduate, I have aspirations of doing the Darley Flying Start, but my ultimate goal is to pursue a career in the breeding industry. I’ve spent time working in various aspects of the sport, but I’ve always enjoyed my time at the farm and the sales the most. The idea of breeding a mare, raising her foal, selling that foal at auction, and eventually watching that horse go on to succeed on the racetrack excites me.
What were you most surprised to learn from your jobs and internships so far?
I’ve grown up going to the sales and seeing the consignor’s perspective, so my time with Pete [Bradley, of Bradley Thoroughbreds] allowed me to be on the other side of the fence. Pete really helped me to develop my eye for a horse.
While I was in Australia, I was lucky enough to have an internship at Arrowfield Stud under John Messara. I spent several weeks in their Sydney offices doing pedigree research and working on various projects, but during my stay in the office I was able to spend a lot of time with Mr. Messara — accompanying him to evaluate stallion prospects and attending meetings at Racing New South Wales as part of his duties as the chairman of that entity. My time at Arrowfield gave me insight into the Australian industry, as well as how a world-class stallion station operates. I was surprised by how much more our yearlings are handled in yearling prep process than in Australia and New Zealand. I quickly learned that backing a horse up a half step was a surefire way to get your arm covered in love bites.
What do you think the Australian racing industry is doing right (and what is it not doing right) that the U.S. industry could learn from?
The racing industry in Australia does a very good job of marketing their product, and their campaigns are successful. The Australian public has a profound appreciation and admiration for the sport, and the big days of racing draw huge crowds and impressive handles. Their industry has done a good job of making racing appeal to my generation. A day at the track is a very social event, and any given Saturday at a Sydney track, you see a lot of Millennials enjoying a day at the races. I think the U.S. is improving in terms of marketing, but we could learn a lot from the Aussies on that front.
I find that in Australia, the two states of Victoria and New South Wales often compete against each other on dates, a problem we often encounter here in the states. The problem lies in two separate, independent bodies between the two states that make coming to a resolution difficult at times.
As a second-generation horseman, what change are you most hoping to see in horse racing during your career?
I think the biggest thing I hope to see as I set out for a career in the industry is addressing our medication policy in the U.S. Especially as someone who wants to go into breeding, I think that if we don’t establish a uniform medication rules and discontinue our administration of race-day furosemide, we will continue to alienate ourselves from international buyers—and eventually our product will begin to be seen and labeled as tainted.
Source: The Paulick Report
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