Donn's Articles » Jack Foley

Jack Foley

Last Sunday was a big day for Jack Foley.  Up until that day, the young jockey had had just seven rides in National Hunt races in his life, so to go to Punchestown for two rides on a big Sunday, on Morgiana Hurdle day, that was big. 

Chavi Artist in the opening handicap chase had a real chance, a progressive handicap chaser who had run well at Galway on his previous run.  Grand Partner’s chance in the handicap hurdle later on was a little less obvious, a 12-year-old who made his racecourse debut when his rider was just 13.  Grand Partner was a 33/1 shot for the later race, the outsider of the entire field, but Jack Foley didn’t see him as an outsider.  In his mind, he was going to the races with two good rides for his boss Tom Mullins, and he was determined that neither would lack for assistance from the saddle.

Neither did.  Chavi Artist was a little hesitant over the first two fences but, after that, he flowed.  His young rider got him into a lovely racing rhythm from early, got his confidence up, got him jumping, allowed him stride on into the lead at the sixth fence, and kept him going over the last two fences and all the way to the line.

“He was great,” says Foley, deflecting the praise to his horse.  “He spotted his own stride.  He didn’t miss a beat down the back straight.  I could hear them coming to me on the run to the last.  We were a bit long at the last, but he was brave, and he stayed on really well up the run-in.”

It was some thrill, a big winner on a big day at Punchestown.  The rider’s biggest win, the biggest race in which he had ever ridden.  It’s a long walk from the racecourse at Punchestown, back up the chute and back to the winner’s enclosure, and slowly, on that walk, it began to sink in.

“It just started to hit me as we were walking back in.  And coming back into the winner’s enclosure at Punchestown.  I had some time then between that race and my next race, so I was able to watch the race back and appreciate it.”

He rode Grand Partner with confidence too in the handicap hurdle.  Close up in third place early on, just behind the leaders.  They lost a little bit of ground as the pace quickened when they raced to the second last flight, dropped from third to sixth, but the rider didn’t panic.  He asked his horse for his effort as they rounded the home turn, took him towards the outside as they straightened up, saw a stride at the last and kicked.  Grand Partner pinged the final obstacle and stayed on best of all up the run-in to get up and win by a length and a half, going away. 

“Tom would fill you with lots of confidence,” says the rider.  “It wasn’t really a factor for me that Grand Partner was the outsider of the field.  I talked about the race with Tom and David (Mullins) beforehand, and I went there thinking that we were going there with a chance.”

It was show jumping first for Jack Foley.  From Ballyloughan in County Carlow, his grand-uncle may be Tom Foley, Danoli’s trainer, but it’s show jumping all the way for his parents.  He started out hunting locally and in hunter trials and in local shows, local gymkhanas, and graduated from there to the bigger stage, to the RDS.  His younger brother Jason won the gold medal at the Young Horse World Championships last year at the age of 18, but Jack started riding out for Aidan Fitzgerald, and was lured by racing. 

It was through hunting that he met David Mullins, top National Hunt rider, and so it was through David that the connection with David’s dad Tom was made.  Foley started with Tom Mullins five years ago as an apprentice, he rode Fosters Cross twice at Dundalk in 2015.  He took out an amateur’s licence and rode in point-to-points, he rode Acceptable Risk for Ellen and James Doyle to win at Lingstown in November last year and, in July this year, he went back to Tom Mullins.

“I just asked Tom if I could come in and ride out a few days a week, and he has been brilliant.  Him and David.  Tom told me that if I work hard, that he will give me the opportunities.  I’m so grateful to him, for the opportunities that he has given me.  He is great to coach you as well.  Point out things that you might have done differently, how you can improve as a rider.”

Jack Foley rode his first winner under Rules last month, Rock Chica for Tom Mullins in a fillies’ three-year-old maiden hurdle at Tipperary.  Winners two and three were at Punchestown last Sunday.  That’s three winners from just 10 rides, and Erins Benefit went close at Thurles on Thursday.

Three more rides at Cork today: two for Tom Mullins, one for Gordon Elliott, and all three with chances.

© The Sunday Times, 22nd November 2020