The National Steeplechase Association jockey is currently back home in Ireland for the winter, keeping busy and fit riding in races for more than a dozen trainers.
What do jump jocks do in the off season? Why keep working, of course. Barry John Foley, a veteran of five seasons and 241 NSA starts, is back home at Ballyhea, Charleville, in County Cork, and has been riding regularly for the past six weeks on the National Hunt circuit at courses including Clonmel, Punchestown, Fairyhouse, Tramore, Naas, and Limerick.
“I have been having a busy winter so far, thankfully,” Foley reported, saying he’s been riding out for Eughene O’Sullivan, Micheal Winters, Paul O’Flynn, Declan Queally and “whoever needs me.”
“I have had 28 rides for 15 different trainers, so my agent, Gary Cribbin, is doing a great job.” Foley had a nice score over Christmas at the Limerick Racing Festival on Notice to Close for trainer for Seamus Neville in a handicap hurdle race. The seven-year-old is expected to make his next start at the Cheltenham Festival.
Earlier this month, Foley had a second winner, Ballea Fox, trained by Seamus Spillane, in a steeplechase at Fairyhouse Racecourse.
Foley has also finished second in five races, “so hopefully a few of them will go one better the next day,” he said. “I have been getting plenty of opportunities and hopefully they will continue.”
Looking forward to the NSA Spring season, Foley said he was planning to return stateside at the end of March, “but with the current uncertainty of upcoming race meets in the USA, it is still up in the air, but the plan is to return as soon as there is racing so hopefully I can keep busy here until that time comes.”
Asked about his goals for 2021, Foley joked, “I don’t have any other than staying in one piece and riding as many winners as I can, which is my goal every year.”
Foley spoke fondly of his best horse, S. Rebecca Shepherd’s timber ace Curve of Stones. “He has been very good to me; he was my first ride in the U.S., my first winner in the U.S., and now he is a real favorite of mine.
“The ground probably went against him at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup,” Foley recalled of the horse’s runner-up finish in his season finale. “But he still ran a massive race to be second considering it was his third run in less than a month after having won previously at Middleburg and the International Gold Cup.
“His owners, Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd, are great supporters of steeplechasing. Also, his trainer, David Bourke and his family do a very good job of looking after him, as he can be a bit cranky at home.”
Foley, trainer David Bourke and Curve of Stones head to the winner’s circle after the 2020 International Gold Cup.