Santa Anita Win Whets Foley's Appetite


Shane Foley aboard Romanised | Racing Post


It's been quite a winter for Irish Classic-winning jockey Shane Foley. He got married in December and having taken in Miami and Barbados on honeymoon with his wife Lorraine, he was back on American soil early in the New Year to ride Platinum Warrior (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) at Santa Anita for his boss Zhang Yuesheng. Their first outing together since last year's G3 Airlie Stud Gallinule S. winner switched from Michael Halford to John Sadler was in the GII San Gabrial S. over nine furlongs Jan. 5 when the pair finished fifth behind Next Shares (Archarcharch). However Foley's return trip to California a month later proved far more rewarding when Platinum Warrior landed the GII San Marcos S. over an extra furlong Feb. 9 under an enterprising ride from the Kilkenny native. It was Foley's first experience of riding in America but he obviously had no trouble adapting to the different environment.

“They were both only short trips but it couldn't have worked out any better,” he said. “Platinum Warrior actually ran well the time before. The trip was too short and I got stuck down the inside on him after a low draw. As a result I wasn't able to get him out and make as much use of him as I'd have liked and I knew he was a couple of lengths better than the bare result.”

He continued, “Winning the San Marcos certainly wasn't a shock to me. They tend to steady up a bit mid race so I made a move in the back straight and was able to get a handy position before kicking on early enough and it kind of looked like I stole it. Thankfully it worked out on that occasion as it doesn't always.”

Foley is hoping to maintain the partnership with Platinum Warrior if his Irish schedule allows, especially if the 4-year-old colt takes up his intended target in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup on World Cup night at Meydan. That race is over two miles, a significant jump in trip but Foley thinks it is something the horse is capable of.

“It is a big increase but I think he is crying out for a mile and a half at least but I suppose beyond that you can't be sure but I'm hopeful he can stay. The [G1] Sheema Classic is probably more suitable trip wise but that tends to be a very hot race so hopefully we'll make the right choice. I've had some success riding in Meydan–I rode five winners at the Carnival in 2013–so I am really looking forward to it. ”

With 2019 having gotten off to a flyer and the potential for more to come–he was recently appointed as first jockey to Jessica Harrington–Foley could have been forgiven for feeling quite apprehensive about his season's prospects this time last year. He had just parted company with Michael Halford having worked with him for 13 years, many of those as stable jockey and he was facing into life as a freelance, a daunting prospect in Ireland when the horse power is concentrated in such few quarters. Foley reverted to hard work, something he certainly isn't shy of as he went about renewing old alliances and sure enough the winners started to flow. Ultimately Foley rode 65 winners in Ireland last year which was more than he had ridden each of the previous two years when he had a first jockey position. An even bigger indicator of his diligence was the fact he rode winners for 21 different trainers in 2018, a statistic that surprised even Foley when this correspondent mentioned it to him. And it wasn't just low grade winners that Foley was banging in, he also registered his second Classic success when he steered the Ken Condon trained Romanised (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}) to victory in the G1 Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh.

“This time last year it was like taking a step into the unknown,” Foley explained. “It was my first year as a freelance with no major yard behind me and while it was daunting I just kept my head down and tried to ride for as many different people as possible. Also it's not like I fell out with Michael [Halford] or anything, I was still going to ride for him, just not as first choice. Romanised though, he was the highlight of the year without a doubt. To win a Classic for Ken [Condon] who is a very good trainer and a man I have built up a very good relationship with was special. It was nice to repay someone like that by riding a big winner for him. I actually saw Romanised the other morning, he looks great, really strong, so I'm looking forward to getting back on him this year.”

A Classic win also helped open new doors for Foley such as the position he now occupies as stable jockey to the increasingly influential Chinese owner Zhang Yuesheng, a role he can continue alongside his new association with Jessica Harrington. Zhang's growing Irish string, which numbers between 35 and 40 horses, also has Foley brimming with excitement for the season ahead.

“Mr. Zhang has some lovely horses to compete with this year. Yulong Gold Fairy (GB) (Mount Nelson {GB}) is probably the most exciting at this stage. She won her Group 3 race last autumn and if she got some heavy ground she could be competitive in any of those top fillies races throughout the season. There's some nice 2-year-olds among them also to look forward to.”

With the Yulong horses spread around a number of trainers like Dermot Weld, Jessica Harrington, Michael Halford, John Oxx, Sheila Lavery and David Marnane, Foley is likely to be busy keeping tabs on the string while also allowing him the opportunity to maintain links with other trainers who have supported him over the years.

“I'll still be riding out for as many people as I can. Mick Donohue who manages Mr. Zhang's string in Ireland is very good to work with and I'm in a great position at the moment. It looks like I'll have plenty of nice horses to ride this year and getting the rides in the good races is very important. I don't like setting targets but I suppose riding another Group 1 winner would be nice but really just to stay sound and ride as many winners as possible would be the aim.”

Though only 31 years of age, Shane Foley has ridden group winners on three continents and it was only his recent nuptials that prevented him from taking in another winter stint in Japan late last year. The Japanese racing circuit has been a rewarding experience for Foley–he recorded five winners there in 2017 with two at stakes level–and it is an experience that has certainly stood to him.

“I loved riding in Japan, though it can be a bit lonely with the language barrier and the fact you are on your own. However the standard of racing is very high and prizemoney is amazing and that certainly helps you get over the loneliness.

With two powerful teams behind him, backed up by the support of a large network of trainers around the country, not to mention a new wife, there seems little chance of Shane Foley feeling any way lonely this year.

Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.


Never miss another story from the TDN

Click Here to sign up for a free subscription.