Tom Foley is this week's The Players' Edge Podcast Guest.
Tom Foley is a name in the horse racing world you might
remember. He's been a successful jockey, winning many graded jumper races. He
wrote a book. And we went through the wrong door and ended up in a movie.
Today, you can say he's an advocate for jockeys, helping them get insurance for
when they are injured. That way, jockeys can fully recover from injuries before
heading to the track too early to collect checks.
Alright Tom, there are a lot of ways to go with this, but
let's start at the beginning.
HRR: You came here at 17, about to turn 18 years-old,
from Ireland. How did that happen?
Tom Foley: Yes, I came here as a 17-year-old.
Answered an ad in an Irish paper and took a chance. Really didn't know what to
expect but sometimes you have to just play the hand you have and see what
HRR: Were you living by yourself, staying with family
or on your own and what was that like in a new country, alone as a young man?
Tom Foley: I was living on a farm in Millwood, Virginia
and had to figure out a lot on my own fast. America was definitely not like
home. I didn't know anyone and really had nobody to call when things went
wrong. Most of my family didn't even have a passport so when I did get hurt
badly, I was on my own more or less. Looking back, I'd not want my kids in that
position, but it definitely makes you tougher.
HRR: You had a lot of success, but at the same time
doubts were starting to build, doubts that would eventually turn into the
reasons you stepped away from being a jockey. Your moment of clarity, if you
will, was the callous treatment of a horse named Laurel at Charles Town
racetrack. The horse's knee blew out early in the race, yet Laurel managed to
get you to the wire safely. Something you were grateful for. Laurel was whisked
away to be euthanized and somebody said to you, "it's not that bad, we need to
make room for better horses anyway."
Rather than relive that awful moment, let's fast forward to
today. Recently, trainer Gordon Elliott was pictured sitting on a dead horse,
talking on the phone, smiling and giving the peace sign. You are still around
the game, would you say Elliott's actions are more of the same as you saw with
Laurel or has the business of horse racing gotten better, if so or if not, why?
Tom Foley: I got very lucky riding over jumps and had
some success. I was lucky to ride a lot for Bruce Miller Jonathan Sheppard and
Jack Fisher mostly. Riding the best horses definitely makes it easier. I
switched to the flat riding as it financially made more sense. But it was
definitely a different world. I think the steeplechase world is slower and
horses are brought on at their own pace, so it was definitely different in the
turn over and speed department. There's not as much claiming in steeplechase.
Gordon, I believe, was caught at a bad time and sometimes
the picture doesn't always tell the whole story. Was he wrong to be sitting on
the poor animal of course but I think the caption and context were way out of
line. I know him and that's definitely not a reflection on the care horses he's
got there. It's sad and that we can obliterate someone so fast with social
media. We let so much stuff slide and be considered normal but seem to be
offended by everything. Makes you afraid to say anything these days.
HRR: Now to the fun stuff, you were in a movie,
Secretariat with John Malkovich. What made you the most nervous, leaving for a
new country, your first professional mount, or acting?
Tom Foley: John Malkovich was such a fantastic guy.
Honestly the whole thing seemed so surreal I didn't overthink it and just
rolled with it all. Almost akin to when I decided to come to America. Sometimes
you have to take a shot and just go.
Catch up with Tom on his Facebook account at https://www.facebook.com/thomas.foley.56