Rick Hiles, a trainer and horse owner for parts of five decades, has been an officer or director of the Kentucky HBPA for more than 30 years, currently serving his fifth term as president. Hiles is a former president of the national organization, during which tenure he initiated the move of the national offices to Kentucky. The Air Force veteran served as vice chair of the Kentucky Health and Welfare Fund for 18 years and was a long-time member of Equine Drug Council that advises the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on medication and testing issues.
Hiles’ more than 630 victories include graded-stakes winners San Dare, Midway Magistrate and Foolish Intent and 10 (and counting) with his standout starter-allowance horse, Sugar Cube. Hiles is stabled most of the year at Churchill Downs, wintering in Arkansas.
In Hiles’ words: “I have always had a deep abiding respect for Kentucky racing and the KHBPA. My objective is to refocus our attention in certain areas to make our organization, once again, the model other horsemen’s organizations emulate. In the past several years, we have observed a major transition in the business of racing. While simulcasting and ADW’s continue to expand, on-track attendance and handle continues to diminish. It is incumbent on horsemen to take an active role in assuring that we receive our fair share of wagering revenues. In addition, I will continue to strive that owners, the lifeblood of racing, are treated with the respect they so richly deserve.”
Frank Jones, a stalwart in Kentucky racing for since 1969 as an owner and breeder, is a prominent Louisville businessman who as president and CEO has built Recreonics Inc. into the national leader in commercial aquatics distribution. He has been a director and vice president of the Kentucky HBPA for three decades, using his business acumen to the benefit of horsemen as chair of the finance committee, contract negotiator, legislative liaison, backside committee and secretary of the Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund. Jones campaigns the promising Tiz Mischief, who lost a photo finish for Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, a points race for the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
Jones, whose longtime trainer is Kentucky HBPA vice president Dale Romans, won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with his homebred Tapitsfly, who went on to win two Grade 1 races as a 5-year-old before being sold that fall for $1.85 million. He campaigns in partnership 2016 Preakness runner-up Cherry Wine and Grade 3 winner Sweeping Paddy. Jones is a Louisville native, Western Kentucky University graduate and Air Force veteran. He served two terms on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, including as vice chair, and is a past president of Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners Inc.
Dale Romans — a lifelong resident of Louisville’s South End who started coming to Churchill Downs’ backside as a kid with his father, the late owner-trainer Jerry Romans— became the iconic track’s all-time win leader during the 2017 fall meet, taking the title from his idol, Hall of Famer Bill Mott. Romans was voted the 2012 Eclipse Award winner as North America’s outstanding trainer. He has won the 2011 Preakness with Shackleford and Breeders’ Cup races with Tapitsfly (2009, for long-time owner and fellow Kentucky HBPA vice president Frank Jones Jr.), Court Vision (2011) and Little Mike (2012), and the Romans-trained Keen Ice became the only horse to defeat Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015.
His first Eclipse champion came in 2004 with the standout turf horse Kitten’s Joy, now a prominent stallion. But Romans’ most important influence might be his activism on behalf of horses and horsemen, including championing the immigrant workforce. Though he admits he doesn’t completely understand exactly how it works, Romans has been a leader in horsemen embracing social media, assembling a team headed by Gwen Davis’ Davis Innovations, as a means to promote the sport and bring fans behind the scenes through video, daleromansracing.com and other platforms. Romans, a graduate of Louisville’s Butler High School, took out his trainer’s license at age 18, saddling his first winner in 1987. He has won 14 trainer titles at Churchill Downs as well as multiple titles at Keeneland and Turfway Park.
He keeps Churchill Downs as his main base, with a division at Saratoga in the summer and relocating to Gulfstream Park in the winter. He also owns a training center Oldham County, a breeding farm in Central Kentucky and operates a sales agency while training about 150 horses and employment totaling around 100. Romans is a member of the Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park racing committees.
Mark C. Bacon
Mark Bacon was born and raised in Louisville, growing up around horses and continuing his passion in the Thoroughbred industry as an owner and breeder. He’s best known for campaigning in partnership with Dana Wells the 12-time winner and $1.95 million-earner Silver Max, whose seven graded stakes included the upset two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. Silver Max, a $20,000 yearling, was trained by Kentucky HBPA vice president Dale Romans, who has been friends with Bacon since before they were in high school, fellow kids hanging around the track. Bacon, a University of Louisville graduate, has worked for Brown-Forman Corporation for more than a quarter-century and currently is Senior Vice President, Managing Director for Woodford Reserve.
After serving three years as an alternate board member, Bacon wrote in running for his current board position that he would “work on your behalf to make sure there is fair and equitable allotment of both on and off-track wagering to horsemen along with support and benefits up to the standard deserved. Horse racing must remain the most integral part of the business and we will stand up to preserve and grow the programs in place which benefit all those represented by the KHBPA. There must also be clear and concise rules in place for therapeutic race day medication to protect our horsemen. It is imperative to provide a reasonable approach in this matter which does not result in fines or suspensions when no wrongdoing has taken place. It is a critical time for racing in Kentucky and there is tremendous pressure to make sure the industry endures and stays competitive in our Commonwealth.”
F. Thomas Conway
Louisville attorney Tom Conway learned about horses and horsemanship riding and working with equines while raised on a farm in Union County, Ky., with Ellis Park considered his hometown track. His best horse has been the Mike Maker-trained Stately Victor, winner of Keeneland’s Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass in 2010 owned in partnership with son Jack, who was then Kentucky’s attorney general. Conway also campaigned Grade 3 winner Matthewsburg with son Matt and multiple stakes-winners General Jack and Mr. Prankster in partnership with Maker, as well as Morgan’s 2012 Illinois Derby runner-up Guerrilla with another partnership. Conway left the farm to attend the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University before serving in the United States Army.
While subsequently teaching in the Jefferson County school district, he attended the University of Louisville’s Louis D. Brandeis Law School at night to earn his juris doctor degree in 1968. He has been a practicing attorney ever since, engaging in civil work and trial practice.The father of four has been married to Barbara Conway since 1963. Conway’s lifelong interest in horses and racing took another step when he purchased his first racehorse in in the mid-1970s. He served two terms as a member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, serving on the rules and license-review committees, and is an outspoken advocate for Kentucky racing and horsemen’s rights.
Travis Foley Jr.
Travis Foley, from one of Louisville’s most prominent racetrack families, is a third generation horseman who owns horses, develops partnerships and is an assistant to his father, trainer Greg Foley. Travis Foley, grandson of the late owner-trainer-breeder Dravo Foley and nephew of trainer Vickie Foley, puts an emphasis on bridging the gap between trainer and ownership groups with technology and communication, including social media. His hope in running for the board was to be in greater position to bring youth into horse racing. Foley graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Kentucky in 2009 and an MBA from the University of Louisville in 2008 and went on to work in the retail and financial sectors before joining the family business. He attended South Oldham County High School, where he was an outstanding basketball player.
Evansville businessman Mike Bruder has owned and bred Thoroughbreds for more than 40 years, campaigning graded stakes-winners Guys Reward, Quick Wit and M B Sea. Bruder, chair of the Ellis Park horsemen’s committee, is a daily fixture at Ellis Park, understanding the interests and concerns of not only horsemen but horseplayers. Bruder spent years racing $3,500 and $5,000 at the region’s smaller tracks before buying better-grade horses starting around 2000. Since then he’s won about 100 races, saying, “I guess I’m probably spending some of my kids’ inheritance, but I enjoy what I do. As long as I’m breathing, I’m going to do it.”
Bruder is an advocate for involved owners, writing several years ago when running for the Kentucky HBPA board, “The large initial investment required to purchase a racehorse, and the rising expenses have served to cast owners as an endangered species. If we are to survive, we must receive an equitable share of existing revenues from wagering both on-track and off-track. In addition, if other forms of gaming become a reality at Kentucky’s racetracks, it is extremely important that horsemen are well-represented during the legislative session.”
William (Buff) Bradley
Buff Bradley has trained horses, as well as being an owner and breeder, since 1993, stabled primarily at Churchill Downs while racing at all five Kentucky tracks. He trained and developed two-time Eclipse Award champion Groupie Doll as well as the popular millionaire Brass Hat, both bred and owned in partnership with his late father, Fred, a veteran horseman, lawyer, businessman and state senator. Bradley also trained Churchill Downs’ two-time Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic winner Divisidero. He has won the Ellis Park training title four times.
Bradley grew up and continues to live on Indian Ridge Farm, the Frankfort farm established by Fred, and spent much of his youth on Kentucky’s racetrack backstretches where his father raced. Bradley’s wife Kim, the daughter of trainer Gary Thomas, live on the Bradley family’s farm, which Kim manages. The Bradleys have two daughters, Kory and Jett, and a son Drew, who is in the Air Force. Bradley also is a board member of the Kentucky Equine Education Project. He and his stable staff are closely involved in Thoroughbred aftercare, including long-time assistant Maria Kabel running an off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) division at Indian Ridge.Enter Description Here!
William R. Connelly
Second-generation horseman Bill Connelly began training in 1980, winning more than 1,200 races. His stable averaging about 20 horses has included multiple stakes-winners Sweet Cassiopeia, Heart’s Song, Hungry Tigress and Henny Jenney. Stabled at Churchill Downs and Turfway Park, Connelly races year-round in Kentucky but also throughout the Midwest, as well as having horses based in Ocala, Fla., in the winter.
Known as one of the hardest workers at the track, the long-time Kentucky HBPA board member also has spent more than 15 years serving on the Turfway Park Backside Committee, working diligently to improve backside living conditions and benevolent, stable-area conditions and monitoring and maintaining purses and the Polytrack surface. Connelly is a graduate of Shelbyville (KY) High School, where he was an overachieving member of the football team.
John Hancock’s training career officially began in 1991, but he literally was raised on the Ellis Park backside in his hometown of Henderson. Nicknamed the Mayor or Godfather of the Ellis backstretch (as well as “Big John”), Hancock is the third-generation owner-trainer stabled in Barn 4, spanning more than 50 years, and now is the patriarch of a racing family in its fifth generation with his grandson, Matt. John’s brother, Jack, also is a trainer. Hancock also is the proprietor of the nearby Riverside Training Center, where several Ellis horsemen train during the winter. He races throughout Kentucky, as well as Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
While Hancock has a sizable stable, he’s considered a champion for the little outfits that help fill out any racing card. Hancock has developed a reputation for paying negligible prices for horses who prove to be runners, including the multiple stakes-placed Waki Patriot and Amberspatriot, as well as winning races during Keeneland’s spring meet with horses coming from Riverside. Among the horses he has bought and sold are Grade 3 winner Cocked and Loaded and UAE Oaks runner-up Midnight Chica. Hancock is a member of Ellis Park’s horsemen’s committee. He came up with the idea of the Kentucky HBPA’s Saturday morning fan-education program, Making of a Racehorse.
R.C. Sturgeon has been a Thoroughbred breeder, owner and trainer since the early 1970s, training at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington while racing in Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and and West Virginia. He has trained horses since 1978, including his homebred 15-time winner Daring Julie, 10-time winner Traci’s Trump, nine-time winner Cynthiana’s Song and the stakes-winner Easy Doer.