We are delighted to present the BIG Interview with Kevin Philippart de Foy.
The son of a former Jockey, Kevin was raised around horses. He decided at an early age that training racehorses was the career he wanted.
Starting in Chantilly with stops in the USA & Ireland before a spell with James Fanshawe, Kevin has spent time with some of the best trainers in the world, in this interview we talk about his early years, his riding career, learning the ropes, the star named horses & the future…..
What is your earliest memory of horse racing?
My mother was a jockey, I remember sitting in the jockey’s room when I could barely walk going around playing with saddles, weight clothes etc.
During my research, I read your Mother is a former Jockey & tried to show you away from Racing & towards Eventing & Show Jumping….
How was it growing up around horses & entering the world of Eventing?
I wasn’t actually too interested by racing to begin with, I thought eventing was great – I was riding a few ponies and doing well. We always had horses at home and I was riding before/after going to school, so I have been around them my entire life and I couldn’t imagine living without them.
Was making a career in racing the most natural progression or did you have another career in mind prior to leaning this way?
I always wanted to be a vet, then changed my mind when I was 16 and decided I wanted to train. Once my mind was made, nothing could’ve stopped me.
“She followed a lead horse and once she joined, she picked up and was 10 lengths clear within a second. ”
You were an Amateur jockey before turning professional, how would you describe your riding style?
I think I am a pretty good rider in the morning, I can judge a horse while riding him but made a terrible jockey! I have always been too heavy, struggling with weight and at no point did I think I was riding well enough to make a career as a jockey.
I was very hard on myself but never rode as well as I wanted too. I don’t like half doing things and didn’t want to be a mediocre jockey, so I decided to move on after riding 15 winners.
The route to Training……
Having started riding out for Criquette Head in Chantilly, you progressed to assistant trainer, why did you decide to go down that route?
Training was the main target. I race rode for a bit which was great for my future experience. Being an assistant helps you with understanding the racing program, the horses and you discuss their plan with the trainer, so it is as close as you can get to being a trainer without the pressure of it!
With some fantastic horses in the yard at that time, Treve was a stand out horse, can you give us an insight into Treve, mannerisms, personality wise & around other horses?
She was a very tricky filly, always spooking/ whipping around, she had plenty of energy and you were better to have the seatbelt on when she was a 2yo. She settled down with time, but I remember from her first piece of work as a 2yo she was something special. She followed a lead horse and once she joined, she picked up and was 10 lengths clear within a second. The feeling was pretty special, and I don’t think I will have that feeling ever again.
With life in France going well, you headed to Christophe Clement in the USA, having a hand in Tonalist, what did you learn from that experience that is vital today?
Christophe Clement is the ultimate horseman, he doesn’t miss anything and is always on top of everything. He looks after his horses to the very best standard and is an incredible competitor. Christophe would probably remind you 50 times/ day that you are here to win races. He would ask you for a lot but works even harder himself, he has a great work ethic.
And you spent a winter with John Ox in Ireland in late 2009, when Sea the Stars was still at the yard ( My favourite horse), I spoke with Fran Berry about STS, how did you find the change from America (weather aside) and how was staying & working in Ireland, compared to the way they train horses in France & America?
In Ireland racing is in people’s blood. Irish racing is probably the most competitive in the world. I remember looking at the race card for some maiden and thought it would be incredibly difficult to set up there. Irish trainers have their horses very fit and they are mentally very strong. Their horses are very versatile and can win races anywhere in the world.
Working with James Fanshawe for 5 seasons, during the height of the Tin Man’s winning streak, that experience must have been invaluable, what did you take from your time with James that you have implemented in your yard?
James is all about patience, he will always give plenty of time to a horse. He will always wait until the horse is ready to run and gets the best out of them. He keeps his horses calm and relaxed. James has a beautiful yard and you always feel the horses are happy there.
My training is a mix between everything I learned from my previous experiences, there is a bit from all of them but I like to think that the horses in my yard are kept very calm, relaxed and are happy to work as a result of that.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
Work hard and keep cool!
Going out on your own…… November 2020
When did you decide the time was right to become a Trainer on your own?
It was always the plan to start in the autumn 2020, although the circumstances were not in our favour, I thought it was important to stick to the initial plan. The project took a couple of years to come together, so to see it through fully I had to make the big jump, pandemic or not!
You have a 37 stable capacity, how many horses do you have in training at the moment?
We currently have 32 horses in the yard with a few more lined up to come in shortly – with the sales being on so frequently that number changes fairly often but so far we have remained almost full since the day we started … we will always find room for more horses & owners though!!
It took you 6 runners to land your first winner with Sealed Offer, you must have been delighted to have a winner so early into your career, how nervous were you building up to that day & what did you feel when Sealed Offer won?
To be honest my first few runners performed as expected, I thought Sealed Offer was working well enough to win at that level, it was a relief she did but I was already thinking about the next one an hour after the race!
You are part of the Midlands Racing Club & run the Runaway Syndicate, how important are Syndicates to racing & can you tell us a little bit about both the Club & Syndicate?
Both the Midlands Racing Club & Run Away Racing Syndicate are run in house here by my secretary, Danielle Steed & I, and to date have both been pretty successful! Danielle is from Leicestershire originally and was keen to find a way of providing an affordable introduction to racehorse ownership for those geographically not involved in the horse racing community.
So far from 9 runs the club have Won 5 races, had two 2nds, a 3rd & a 4thplace … so I would say they are doing pretty well! The Run Away Racing Syndicate currently boasts 4 horses; two 2 year olds, a 3 year old & a 4 year old – they too have notched up 3 Wins and multiple placings.
Both the racing club & syndicates are made up of people from varying backgrounds but all with a passion for racing – they are a great bunch of people and we are very lucky to have their support in the yard!
Heptathelete was flying in the winter, when do you think we will see her again?
She is in foal but will probably run twice more before she retires. She has an entry on Saturday but will probably go next week instead, so keep your eye on her entries!
Final couple of questions….
Aside from Treve, The Tin Man, Sea the Stars & Tonalist… Which horse PAST or PRESENT would you like to train & why?
There are many… Zarkava for her turn of foot. Although she had her quirks she retired unbeaten having won 4 Group one’s!
If you could win any race, which would it be & why?
The Gold Cup at Royal Ascot & The Gold Cup at Cheltenham .. in the same year! Though I train flat horses, I have always had a passion for jump racing and would love one day to train a Cheltenham Festival winner!
Can you give our readers a horse to keep an eye on for this season or the future?
Scot’s Grace – she won on her debut at Kempton in July & is a filly I really like. She is training well at home & I am excited to see what she can produce this season.
We would like to thank Kevin for his time, to wish Kevin & his team all the best for the rest of the season & for the future. With his grounding & determination, the sky is the limit…..
Interview = Rich Williams
Pictures – Kevin, his logo, Heptathelete & Scot’s Grace (Kevin’s Twitter Account)
Treve (Racing Post) James Fanshawe (Site Archives)
Published – August 2021