Greg Foley Racing built through family connection

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By Sam Draut

It has everything an office typically should, a desk stacked with papers, a couch commanding the back wall, file cabinets and framed newspaper articles, but it’s what’s outside the office that makes it different. There isn’t a copier, a hallway laced with fluorescent lights or cubicles outside of the office door, instead, a stable of horses that encompasses Greg Foley Racing at the backside of Churchill Downs.

Greg Foley, an Oldham County native, began training on his own after being brought into horse racing by his father, Dravo, in 1981. Since then, Greg Foley has tallied more than 1,300 victories and ranks in the top-10 of all-time wins at Churchill Downs along with more than $23 million of earnings.

The racing stable is in its third generation as Travis Foley is an assistant trainer. The office has framed clippings of the Oldham Era of Travis Foley’s days as a basketball star at South Oldham High School, as well as Alex, the youngest Foley’s news-worthy performances when he played basketball at North Oldham High School.

It’s a family business and that’s how it began.

Dravo was a jockey for four years before an injury prevented him from riding competitively, forcing him to transition as a trainer. Greg grew up around horses, walking them as a boy at River Downs in Cincinnati. Dravo ran the Skylight Training Center in the 1960s.

“I grew up with the horses and I loved them,” Greg Foley said. “From a young age it was what I wanted to do, it was all I had been around.”

As his father began to scale back, Greg took on his own horses.

And so, it began.

Greg’s first win came at the Fair Grounds Jan. 7, 1981. He is a two-time Leading Trainer Title at Churchill Downs and Ellis Park, as well as a five-time Leading Trainer at Turfway Park. He reached 1,000 wins in Jan. 2008.

Travis said his father’s achievements are a testament to doing it the right way.

“There are a lot of people that come in hot and don’t last,” Travis Foley said. “It’s hard to be a true horseman. It’s seven days a week, four o’clock in the morning. A lot of people can’t maintain. It’s hard to do it without wearing thin.”

If the horses make the jockeys and trainers, the Foleys make sure they do right by the horses.

“You have to be willing to take the extra steps because they can’t talk to you,” Travis Foley said. “It isn’t always easy in a game with financial ramifications, we have to make a lot of tough phone calls. People want their horses to run and make money, but we can’t push horses when they aren’t ready.”

Working alongside each other, Greg and Travis both bring different assets to the training stable. Greg has a lifetime of experience around horses while Travis has an acumen for the business side of racing with a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky.

Travis could have explored opportunities in the business world, but like his father, couldn’t stay away from training horses.

The hours are grueling and there aren’t days off, but it can’t compare to anything else, Travis said.

“The highs are better than anything the corporate route can provide, there are plenty of lows,” Travis Foley said. “This is roller coaster. Our good days are better than just about anything.”