by Evan Pattak
Randy Bendis notched career training win 4,000 when Muscle Up The Gold won Wednesday’s (February 15) 11th race at Hollywood Casino at The Meadows. Bendis ranks No. 8 on the all-time win list for trainers.
Bendis, 63, grew up not far from The Meadows and has been based there throughout his career. A football player in high school, Bendis was introduced to harness racing as a fan and saw a connection between the two activities.
“I couldn’t see myself going on to college,” he says. “This was a way of staying involved in athletics without having to go to college.”
While in high school, he began grooming for Linden Creek Farm and trainer Allen Saul, among others, receiving special dispensation from his school to work in the mornings and attend classes each afternoon.
He opened his stable in the late 1970s and initially was a trainer/driver, collecting 269 wins and earning more than $500,000 in purses as a driver. But he soon abandoned that pursuit.
“Driving and training made me nuts,” he recalls. “I’d get very down on myself. I thought, ‘I drive pretty good, but I don’t do it great. If I intend to stick with this, I’d better get somebody great to drive.’ Now I can blame other people instead of blaming myself.
“And I don’t take the losses as hard. As you get older, you realize racing is not life and death because you experience life and death.”
Although his official win total now is 4,000, the actual figure is higher because the United States Trotting Association began compiling and archiving trainer statistics in 1991, well after Bendis launched his career. Using old race programs, retired track announcer Roger Huston determined that Bendis collected 276 wins at The Meadows that aren’t included in his official win total.
“It’s a shame we can’t tell how many training wins Howard Beissinger or George Sholty had. We’re talking about people like Delvin Miller and Billy Haughton. But I’m past worrying about my total. The only thing that would bother me is if they said they wanted to name a race for me because that would mean I’d died.”
Among his favorite horses, Bendis cites Georgia Pacific, who won a 2004 elimination of the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids, and Ultimate Goal, who captured a 1992 Breeders Crown elim for freshman filly trotters and finished third in the Hambletonian Oaks the following year.
“After that, I had people knocking on my door,” he says.
Bendis is gratified by his career-long success at The Meadows, where he’s achieved 19 seasons with at least 100 wins; his horses have earned more than $32 million in purses.
“I’ve had a lot of good raceway horses,” he says. “I’ve had owners who have given me the opportunity to train a lot of good hard-knockers; that’s what my barn has been. Probably what I’m most proud of is being a consistent force at The Meadows.”
Bendis attributes much of that success to Dave Teed, his longtime second trainer.
“Believe me, he’s the heart and soul of our operations,” Bendis says. “I send him on impossible missions — go to Northfield tonight in the snow and make sure you’re back in the barn at 7. And he is. He’s been like a brother to me.”
One goal has eluded Bendis — winning the Adios — but he may have a shot at the orchids this year with American Fling, a 2022 New York Sires Stake freshman champion.
“I’m a local guy,” he says, “so winning the Adios would be cool.”