The daily grind of a trainer

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By Sam Draut

There aren’t days off for trainers.

The schedule is continuous with training, care and keep for thoroughbred horses in preparation for race day.

Greg Foley Racing, a stable with a legacy of three generations of Oldham County natives has more than 1,300 victories and ranks in the top-10 all-time for wins at Churchill Downs.

Travis Foley, a trainer with his father Greg at the stable, outlines the typical day.

4 a.m. The day begins.

After arriving at the stable, 20 to 30 minutes is devoted to checking on the horses to see how they ate and slept the previous night.

“You’re making sure everything is okay,” Foley said. “They can get hurt overnight pretty easily.”

5:15 a.m. The track opens.

For the next few hours, the horses train on the track. Each of the 40 horses have a different training schedule.

“They’re all in different phases, whether they’re just getting here, some are coming off injuries, some are racing the next day or raced the previous day,” Foley said.

Communication between the trainers and horse exercisers is important. The trainers set a regime for the rider and horse to follow.

“A good rider is very important to whole operation,” Foley said. “They are on the horse everyday. They can tell you ‘it wasn’t energetic today or I felt a little something in the rear end or it coughed.’ Whatever it may have been. Then based off that, then you can possibly go over them once you get back.”

Foley said the key part is to know the horse. Each horse moves in its own way, so for some training sessions it’s about looking smooth and healthy. When a horse is feeling good, its coat and hair has a vibrant color.

“When you watch them everyday, you know when they are feeling good, when something is off, you can tell, it’s like one of your kids,” Foley said. “That’s why it is so important to be here everyday. If there is ever an issue, you have to be on it.”

8 a.m. to 11 a.m. The business side starts.

Greg Foley Racing works with around 30 owners, so updates, communication and administrative tasks between the trainers and owners is ongoing.

Whether its races at Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Indiana Grand Race Course or Fair Grounds in New Orleans, the Foleys look for conditions that fit their horses.

When they find a race for a horse, they’ll call the owner to approve it. From there, a jockey agent will work with the Foleys to get a jockey selected for race day.

“The object when you enter a horse is to run as aggressively as you can,” Foley said. “You want to run where the horse can win.”

Some owners will push for their horses to be in a race, which makes for one of the toughest parts of the job, keeping the owners happy while also doing what’s right for the horse, Foley said.

11 a.m. It’s lunch time.

The horses are fed. On days when there aren’t races, the trainers won’t have to return to the stable until the afternoon. On race days in the spring, Greg Foley Racing has horses competing at Churchill Downs, Indiana Grand Race Course and Keeneland.

Jimmy Joe finished second in a claiming race April 30 at Churchill Downs while Barrier won a maiden special weight race May 1 at Indiana Grand Race Course. Unfading Beauty won a claiming race May 1 at Churchill Downs.

3:15 p.m. Afternoon feeding.

On non-race days, the trainers return for an hour and a half to feed the horses and check in again.

“We make sure everything is all right, we make sure the horses want to eat,” Foley said.

Evening hours More business.

The majority of Foley’s outgoing phone calls are from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., but the owners might not return the call until the evening. If a horse gets sick at midnight, the trainer needs to get a veterinarian.