Kilkenny jockey Shane Foley
Questions & Answers: Jockey Shane Foley on his ambitions and what drives him on in horse-racing
What was your childhood ambition?
To play hurling for Kilkenny or soccer for Manchester United.
Growing up, who was your sporting hero?
Do you have a mentor?
Not really but Pat Smullen and Johnny Murtagh are very good to me and are always at the end of the phone.
What or where is your happy place?
Hunting and on the back of my bicycle.
What sparked your love of racing?
I went to school in New Ross with future jockeys Sean Flanagan, Mathew O’Connor and MJ Doran. I caught the bug from there.
What horse put you on the map?
Bob Le Beau. He was trained by Jessica Harrington and won a few Premier Handicaps and a listed race together. I was only a 5lb claimer at the time.
Who is your favourite horse?
Albigna – she won the Group 1 Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac in Longchamp last October and hopefully she can show her stuff at the Guineas.
What was it like to ride in your first race?
My first ride was on Altnadua at the Curragh in March 2007 in a maiden for Michael Halford. It was fantastic to ride for Paul Rooney who owns the horse as he is a great supporter of racing. There wasn’t too much pressure as it was a maiden race, so I really enjoyed it and wasn’t too nervous.
How long does it take to learn race-riding tactics?
I am always learning on the job but the longer you are riding and the older you get, the more experience you get and with that, the tactical side follows.
Describe the feeling of riding your first winner?
My first winner was Snap for trainer Liam McAteer in Leopardstown on June 20 2007 - it was unreal! It is a surreal feeling going past the line in front. I still get a great buzz from all my winners, that feeling never goes away.
What is your most memorable racing moment?
It would have to be Jet Setting landing the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh in 2016. It was my first Classic winner for my good friend Adrian Keatley - it was well celebrated!
What is your favourite racecourse in Ireland?
The Curragh. It is a great track, one of the best in the world, the best horses normally wins so there is no excuses really
If you weren’t a jockey what would you be?
I like making stuff so maybe a tradesman.
If you could ride one horse, what would it be?
It would have to be Frankel – what a machine.
How do you cope with pressure?
I am not too bad with pressure. I try and keep things as normal as possible and treat it as just another race. Jessica is very good to ride for because she leaves the riding up to the jockey and having the free hand helps because you will always have Plan A in your head but mid-race you might have to go to Plan C.
What mental preparation do you do for the big days?
The big days are sometimes easier – you are riding against the bigger jockeys and better horses. It easier to study the form and you know what you are competing against.
How do you stay motivated?
I am very driven. Fitness and to be in the best shape I can be in, and the drive to ride winners is my motivation.
How do you deal with dips in form?
You have got to keep positive. It can be frustrating but keep the head-up. I have great self-belief and I know if I am on a good horse, I know we can do it.
Outside of racing, what is your favourite sporting moment?
Being at any of the Kilkenny All-Ireland finals and I will never forget when Manchester United won the Champions League Final and Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored a goal in the dying minutes.
Can you give us a Netflix/film recommendation?
I really enjoyed Queen of the South and The Last Dance.
What is your guilty pleasure?
A cold pint of Bulmer’s on a sunny day.
Desert island discs – name your favourite three songs?
Anything by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Oasis and Ed Sheeran will do me.
What person do you admire the most and why?
Mick Kinane is my absolute racing hero. He was so strong in a finish and he rode winners all over world. He was the best wherever he went.
Mammy’s Sunday dinner.
Where is your favourite place to go on holidays?
What ambitions do you still have?
I would love to be champion jockey at some stage.
What is the hidden gem of Kilkenny?
When you think of your home what immediately springs to mind?
Family, the River Barrow and all the summers I spend swimming in it.
How are you occupying your time during the Covid-19 restrictions?
I am riding out every morning between Jessica Harrington’s, Ken Condon’s, and Johnny Murtagh’s. My wife has a livery yard and a riding school – it is closed at the moment, but we are busy with the horses and I am flat out gardening, strimming hedges, and spring cleaning
If you had one piece of advice for everyone during these worrying times of Covid-19, what would it be?
Stay positive – there is always someone worse off than we are.
What is the first thing you want to do when we get back to normal?
Go out for dinner - I am sick of cooking!
A shut mouth catches no flies!