Alex Foley
Executive Director
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Lifelong Louisvillian Alex Foley became only the second permanent executive director of the Kentucky HBPA in history when hired in November, 2023. He replaced Marty Maline, who served for almost 47 years until his retirement at the end of 2022.

Foley is the younger son of veteran trainer Greg Foley and the grandson of the late owner-trainer-breeder Dravo Foley. Alex Foley graduated from Bellarmine University with a degree in business management (and four years on the golf team) and from the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law with his Juris Doctor.

Foley had been serving as an assistant trainer to his dad, including overseeing the stable’s Ellis Park division throughout the spring, summer and into the fall. His brother, Travis, is also an assistant trainer to their father and their aunt Vickie Foley is a trainer.

“He was interviewed by our search committee, and they were impressed by him and his credentials,” said Kentucky HBPA President Rick Hiles. “He’s a young man, he’s got a history in racing from his dad and grandpa. He knows everybody on the backside. He has a law degree. We thought he could get in that position and have some longevity.”

Asked if he thought he’d make 47 years like Maline, Foley laughed and said, “I know I have some pretty big shoes to fill.”

Foley had been serving as an assistant trainer to his dad, including overseeing the stable’s Ellis Park division throughout the spring, summer and into the fall. His brother, Travis, is also an assistant trainer to their father and their aunt Vickie Foley is a trainer.

Foley said the combination of being part of a racing family and his law degree made the Kentucky HBPA executive directorship appealing.

“The horse-racing industry and my legal background, I’ve always wanted to do both but didn’t have the avenue,” he said. “This job provides that. The connections I have on the backside — whether it’s horse trainers, gallop boys, assistants — I’ve known so many people that it was a perfect fit and something I’m passionate about.”

Asked if he thought he’d make 47 years like Maline, Foley laughed and said, “I know I have some pretty big shoes to fill.

“Marty said he’d mentor me. Rick Hiles has been great in the transition. I think we make a good team. I think being younger brings a different light to everything.”

John Griffith
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John Griffith grew up in Evansville, Ind., and was going to Ellis Park with his dad from the time he was a tyke. He calls being Kentucky HBPA’s treasurer — a post he’s held since 1988 — his dream job, combining his love of horse racing with his accounting background. It’s a job that has become increasingly complex. When Griffith started, calculating what was owed the horsemen’s purse account from wagering was a pretty basic formula, with wagering in Kentucky held only at the track racing live and with few multi-horse wagers outside the daily double (such bets having a higher takeout than straight wagering). “It probably took five or 10 minutes to know how much was due horsemen for purses earned that particular day,” he says, noting that the track and racing commission would also sign off on the calculation. “That’s how simple it was.” Today there are hundreds of different off-track sources of purse money, involving varying percentages to horsemen.

Griffith’s responsibilities include making sure horsemen get what they have coming under terms of the HBPA’s contracts with the racetracks and their simulcast outlets. He compiles monthly financial statements for the board, prepares the tax returns for the auditors, approves all the bills to be paid and creates the annual budget. “I’m quite proud that from year to year, I get pretty close,” he says of the budget. “I low-ball income and high-ball expenses, so hopefully it comes together at the end.” Griffith went into the trucking business after earning a bachelor of science degree in accounting at Indiana State University. When that industry was deregulated, Griffith figured the small carriers would be in trouble and that it was time to seek out another profession. Reaching back to his love of horse racing, Griffith attended the old Kentucky Equine Institute’s six-month program at the Kentucky Horse Park.

To the temporary chagrin of his parents, he sold his house and moved to Lexington without a long-range plan. At KEI, he learned about horses and was prepared for entry jobs both on the track and at breeding farms. Griffith considered trying to become a trainer, but stints as a hotwalker and groom convinced him that “you know, this seven days a week is a little tough.” Out of the blue, he cold-called then-Keeneland president Bill Greely, offering to work for free in exchange for the opportunity to learn and get experience. The horsemen’s bookkeeper had just had a heart attack, and Griffith was brought into the bookkeeping office on a temporary basis. “Bill said, ‘And by the way, we’re going to pay you,’” Griffith recalls. “I said, ‘That will work fine.’” Griffith in the course of his work soon met Kentucky HBPA executive director Marty Maline. The next spring, when the HBPA’s numbers guy left, “I told Marty, ‘I’m your man,’” Griffith says with a laugh. “I had no idea who the HBPA even was. But I said it’s sounds like an opportunity, and I told Marty what my background was…. I promise you from the bottom of my heart, this is an absolute dream come true.” Griffith didn’t even have a title when he became the Kentucky HBPA’s new numbers guy in May,1988. By the way, his parents were thrilled with how his career path turned out.

Sara Toomey
Executive Assistant
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Originally from Buckner, Ky., Sara Toomey is a graduate of the University of Louisville’s Equine Business Program. After graduating from Mercy Academy, Toomey spent a year at William Woods University in Missouri to study barn management and western-seat equitation, two more years at the University of Kentucky with a pre-veterinarian curriculum and then — her vet aspirations in part extinguished after working in UK’s slaughter house — landing at U of L. “Because I came out of a science major into business, a lot of my credits didn’t transfer,” said Toomey, who attended night school at U of L while working full time. “So I actually graduated with seven minors because of how many extra credits I had.” Terri Burch, the program director for U of L’s equine program, helped Toomey get hooked up in a part-time position with the Kentucky HBPA as benevolence coordinator in 2008. Six months later, she was promoted to office manager.

It was not exactly the career path she’d envisioned growing up riding quarter horses. “Once I got in the industry, I realized how passionate the trainers are about their horses and how they really do care about their well-being,” she said. “From there, I got on board and actually ended up with my own thoroughbred along the way.” Toomey acquired her off-the-track mare, Lady Wynne, from Kentucky HBPA board member Buff Bradley and owner-breeder Nelson Clemens. Lady Wynne shows in hunter-jumper classes in Prospect, Ky. She continues her responsibilities as benevolence coordinator. “I kind of do a little bit of everything,” she said. “We all do, because we’re such a small office. Everybody does everything. I’m basically Marty’s assistant, I assist the board, oversee all the offices, I schedule maintenance that needs to come up around the office. Really anything that comes up, including special projects like the website.”

Donna Davis
Field Office Manager
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Donna Davis started with the Kentucky HBPA in 1995, serving as field office manager at Turfway Park and Ellis Park. She’s the daughter of horse owner-breeder Fred McCrary, growing up in southern Indiana on a farm not far from Ellis Park. “It’s been a dream job for me,” she said. “I love everybody I work with, and we’ve all gotten along beautiful since the start.” Davis’ job description essentially is making sure stuff gets done.

She also helps out with the Kentucky Health and Welfare Fund, the program financed by uncashed parimutuel tickets in Kentucky that assists those working in racing with certain medical bills. “I help out with the paper work there. Just anything the horsemen need,” she said of her role. “I make sure there are condition books there, bills of sales, I notarize stuff, fax things, make copies. Just anything anybody needs.”

William R. Connelly
Field Representative
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Second-generation horseman Bill Connelly began training in 1980, winning more than 1,278 races before retiring in late 2019. His stable averaged 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.

Known as one of the hardest workers at the track, the long-time Kentucky HBPA board member also 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.

Jennie Rees
Communications Specialist
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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 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.

Rees was a 2014 inductee into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor and earned five Eclipse Awards while with The Courier-Journal. She is a recipient of the Louisville-based Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners’ Warner L. Jones Horseman of the Year Award and has been honored for career achievements by the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Kentucky HBPA, Kentucky Thoroughbred Association-Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders, the Maryland Jockey Club and Kentucky harness horsemen. Rees, a two-time Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year, is an Indiana University graduate who grew up in Lexington, Ky. She is married to former Kentucky trainer Pat Dupuy, for whom she walked hots.