Shane Foley will be hoping to get out of the stalls at Galway with the same degree of panache that has seen him enjoy a seamless start to life as a freelance jockey.
A quick break is crucial at Ballybrit according to a rider who enjoyed classic success this season, just eight months after a 12 year association with the Michael Halford yard drew to a close.
“You’d be looking for a low draw but if you miss the break in a low draw it can leave you in trouble as well you know. It all depends on the first furlong in Galway; it’s just as important as the last.”
With eight Galway Festival winners already to his name, the Graiguenamanagh man will arrive at Ballybrit in a few weeks as a freelance rider as opposed to chief rider to the Halford stable. However Foley seems quite content in his current position having forged solid relationships with a number of yards in the months since. As he takes his gear bag from his car or that of whoever he has carpooled with on the day, he will already have a mornings work under his belt. Galway may represent a week of festivities for punters but it is business as usual for the jockeys in their respective yards.
With freelance status comes the agency to ride out at a variety of yards and Curragh-based handler Ken Condon is among those with whom Foley has enjoyed a successful relationship, “I’m somewhere different every morning, between Ken Condon’s, Jessie’s (Jessica Harrington), Joseph’s (Joseph O’Brien) and I’ve rode for Johnny Murtagh so I’m kept going you know.”
As he got a leg up on the Condon-trained Romanised in the prelims of the Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas, the three-year-old’s lofty 25/1 odds did little to suggest Foley would have the luxury of the two and a quarter length winning margin he ultimately enjoyed. That distance allowed him to savour the moment.
“I mean Jet Setting was a great day too (winning the Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas in 2016) but this was definitely up there with the most memorable and he won well so I was able to celebrate a little – the last one was a bit of a close call”, he recalls.
It was a victory that propelled Foley back into the spotlight, the shop window so to speak – he acknowledges that fact, “a lot of people see that – look any year you win a classic is always a good year. But things have been flying thank God, especially in my first year as a freelance jockey – it’s always important you know.”
The figures linked to Foley for the season to-date are quite pleasing indeed; he currently sits on the 25 winner mark having chalked up a tally of 44 last term. His current standing bodes well for the 30-year-old in his quest to surpass last year’s total, “I think you always want to improve and to better yourself but look I’m well on target to beat that touch wood and I’d love to get by 50 this year anyway. It’s never easy in Ireland without having a yard but I’ve been getting lots of support and that so it’s great”.
As for a horse he is looking forward to over the week, Sir Jack Thomas is the name mentioned as “one that could fit the bill for one of those decent handicaps.” However Foley acknowledges that the current ground would be a bit on the fast side for the Johnny Murtagh trained three-year-old who won a rated race at Sligo when last seen in June. So while he needs the weather gods to sanction a little rainfall between now and then, he is quick to emphasis the degree of luck that is required in order to win a race
“You need to be able to jump and travel there, you’ll hear a lot of hard luck stories down there and you can get tricked into going too fast as well. It’s just a unique track, it’s different. I don’t know if there is any certain way to ride it but if you have a horse that can jump and travel then just keep it simple.”
While it remains to be seen what the week in the west has in store for the rider known affectionately as “Dusty” one thing is for sure, Foley isn’t likely to be short of options.
Courtesy Horse Racing Ireland.