Rob O’Connor II retires after training almost 39 years

Today’s media notes by Churchill Downs’ Kevin Kerstein (Coady Media photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Friday, June 14, 2024) – Rob O’Connor II, a fixture on the Kentucky racing circuit for nearly 39 years, has decided to retire from his career as a trainer, marking the end of an era filled with dedication and passion for the sport.

          “There are so many people in this game that are unable to retire on their own terms and I’m very fortunate to say I’m able to do so,” O’Connor said. “This sport is so special to me and I’m so proud to have built a life in it. I’ve had a great career and was around so many dedicated owners throughout my time as a trainer. I just can’t say enough how lucky I was.”

          O’Connor took out his trainer’s license in the fall of 1985 and recorded his first victory on Jan. 7, 1986 with Lady Rolls at Latonia Race Track in Northern Kentucky. Throughout his career, O’Connor tallied 477 wins from 3,696 starters with his horses earning more than $7.4 million. O’Connor called Churchill Downs home for much of his career, raising his family in Louisville.

          In early May, O’Connor saddled his final starter, Pat’schromecompass, who finished seventh at Tampa Bay Downs. Since then, O’Connor has transferred the majority of his stable to longtime friend and fellow trainer Greg Foley. On Thursday evening at Churchill Downs, O’Connor was in attendance when his former trainee,Cox Canyon, made his first start with Foley and upset 1-2 favorite Tartufo to win a $10,000 claiming event.

          “I’m just so thankful and thrilled for everyone involved especially his ownerBruce McCrea,” O’Connor said after the race. “Having my family here with me, along with the entire Foley family here, that’s what life is all about.”

          For the many years, O’Connor trained privately for local businessman James Bohanon. One of the top horses the duo had was American Dynasty, a multiple stakes winner at Ellis Park and Turfway Park.

          “I trained for Mr. Bohanon for nearly two decades,” O’Connor said. “It was a true blessing because when I had horses for him, it was when my kids were growing up. I was able to be around my family which was very important.”

          In his retirement, O’Connor said he looks forward to spending more time with his family including his two young grandchildren Robert O’Connor IV and Parker O’Connor.    

DOWNS AFTER DARK RETURNS SATURDAY FEATURING ‘YACHT ROCK’ THEME – The final Downs After Dark of the Spring Meet at Churchill Downs is Saturday night and the home of the Kentucky Derby will celebrate the return of summertime with a “Yacht Rock” theme.

          Guests are encouraged to dress in nautical-inspired attire – traditional dress codes in premium seat areas will be relaxed – as Churchill Downs stages a summer-inspired nighttime 10-race program beneath the historic Twin Spires starting at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern). Admission gates will open at 5 p.m.

          The evening will include musical performances headlined by Monsters of Yacht (8:30 p.m.) with DJ K-Dogg (5:30 p.m.) kicking off the entertainment.

Attendees can also enjoy a roving photobooth, style contests (Best Nautical Chic and Captain’s Best) and whimsical art by caricaturists. There also will be signature drinks at the Q Mixers Beachside Party.

The high-class racing includes two stakes events: the $175,000 Monomoy Girl for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles (Race 5 at 7:57 p.m.) and $175,000 Chorleywood for 4-year-olds and up at 1 3/8 miles on turf (Race 7 at 9:05 p.m.).

The final race of the night is scheduled for 10:42 p.m.

General admission is $20. Reserved box seats range from $28-$38. All-inclusive premium dining packages are $92-$179. This includes the new Sports Illustrated Club SI with all-inclusive offerings and direct views into the horse stalls of the new Paddock; the highly sought after all-inclusive Homestretch Club for night racing; and newly renovated Jockey Club Suites for larger private groups. Inquire about all the options at or by calling (502) 636-4450 or emailing [email protected].

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.