Englishman Tom Morley may well be the hottest young trainer in American horse racing, though the most striking thing about him is his humility.
This past weekend, Morley sent out four winners at four tracks across four states – those numbers from a man with a total of 72 wins thus far in his career. Just last month, Morley earned his first graded stakes win when Haveyougoneaway captured the G2 Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga.
“It means everything to do it at Saratoga, it really does,” he said. “This is the toughest place in America to win a race, in my opinion. It's the premier meet across the entire country.”
Married to NYRA paddock analyst Maggie Wolfendale, Morley has occasionally been referred to as “Maggie's husband.” But he is certainly making a name for himself these days, with 43 percent winners so far at the Saratoga meeting. Of course, Maggie is one of his biggest fans.
“When Haveyougoneaway crossed the wire, you can hear on the race replay somebody screaming,” Morley laughed. “That's my wife. She was as excited as I was, if not more so.”
— Mark DiLo Jr (@MarkDiLoJr) July 27, 2016
Born in England, Morley was bred to be a racehorse trainer. His uncle David Morley trained multiple Group 1 winners, his cousin Henry Daly trained multiple Group 1 winning jump horses, and several more of his cousins are elite bloodstock agents.
The racing bug bit him early; Morley's own father was an owner and breeder. Growing up on a sheep and cattle farm just a short distance from York Racecourse, the young man spent a good portion of time “going racing,” even admitting that some of his professors were keen to overlook time spent at the track instead of in the classroom.
That's not to say Morley wasn't a good student – in fact, he graduated from Newcastle University with a Bachelor's Degree in history. From there, he was accepted into Darley Flying Start, an international management and leadership training program for the Thoroughbred industry developed by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
“All of us that have been a part of Darley Flying Start have Sheikh Mohammad to thank for an incredible experience,” Morley said. “The course packs 10 years of experience into just two short years. You get to see every aspect of the industry at the most elite level, everywhere from Ireland to Dubai to America.”
Upon completion of the program, Morley spent four years in the service of trainer Jeremy Noseda at Newmarket, working with such elite horses as Fleeting Spirit (European champion sprinter), Soldiers Tale, and classic-winning Sixties Icon. Next, he was an assistant for trainer Eddie Kenneally in the United States for just over two years, and even helped Kenneally expand his New York operation.
It was during that time that he met Maggie, and the trainer admits she may have had something to do with his decision to start training in the United States, as opposed to in England. He said the structure of claiming races in the US gives more owners and trainers a chance to be a part of the game, and if they work hard, to be successful.
“Young people getting started in America have a much better chance of making it,” Morley added. “Owners here are willing to back them straight away; if they believe in you, they'll send you horses.
“Besides,” he said wryly, “the purses here are much better.”
Morley knows a thing or two about working hard. He arrives at the barn by four in the morning and rides the pony out with each set to watch his horses train. He spends a significant amount of time collaborating with his assistants in other parts of the state and travelling to see the other horses under his care. He also visits sales around the country, working with friends from the Darley program to select bloodstock for his owners.
“Of the group of us that were in that rotation together (in the Darley program), three of us are here now in Saratoga,” he said. “It's really fun to get to work with them.”
Morley first hung out his shingle in New York in March of 2013. He is eternally grateful, he says, to owner Tony Grey for giving him both his first horse to train and his first winner, Treblemaker, at Aqueduct.
Having grown that stable from just one horse to nearly 50, Morley has done well for himself in just three years' time. But he is quick to credit others for his success.
“I have an incredible team,” Morley said. “I hope they know how vital they are to my operation, and how grateful I am for all of them.”
Maggie plays a unique and vital role on Morley's team, exercising horses for him in the mornings before she goes off to work during the races.
“She's definitely got some of her own opinions,” Morley joked, “and she's not afraid to let me know exactly what she thinks of a horse.”
Even after his first graded stakes victory with Haveyougoneaway, certainly a defining moment in his young career, Morley took to Twitter to thank the mare herself:
I sincerely mean this, thank you all for your congratulations on today's result but without the horse you have no chance. A tremendous filly
— Tom Morley (@morley_racing) July 28, 2016
His partnership with Maggie and his own hard-driving work ethic have proven to be a solid mix. Morley is on track to post his best year yet in terms of both wins and earnings, having already eclipsed the $1 million mark. Even better, he and Maggie will soon celebrate a new member of their young family – Maggie is pregnant.
“It's been amazing,” Morley said, a bit emotional. “I see it as such a privilege to do what I do.”
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