LeRoy Jolley with 1980 Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk

LeRoy Jolley with 1980 Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk

Bob Coglianese

Hall of Fame Trainer LeRoy Jolley Dies at 80

Won two Kentucky Derbys; three of his runners in the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame trainer LeRoy Jolley, who sent out two winners of the Kentucky Derby (G1), died Dec. 18 at Albany Medical Center in Albany, New York. The horseman, who suffered from lung cancer, was 80.

From Hot Springs, Ark., Jolley was the son of famed trainer Moody S. Jolley, who died in 1976. Moody Jolley, and his wife, Dorothy, owned champion Ridan, winner of the 1962 Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes, who was trained by their son.

LeRoy Jolley won his first Derby with John L. Greer's Foolish Pleasure in 1975, who had been the previous year's champion 2-year-old male. Jolley came back to Churchill Downs the following year with 2-5 favorite Honest Pleasure, who lost the Derby by a length to Bold Forbes. He prepared Bertram Firestone's General Assembly for a second-place finish in the 1979 Kentucky Derby, losing to Spectacular Bid. 

Jolley won his second Derby in 1980 with Diana Firestone's Genuine Risk, only the second filly to win the Run for the Roses. He sent out several other top runners in the Derby in subsequent years—Cure the Blues (1981), Mogambo (1986), and Gulch (1987)—to no avail.

Jolley also trained Manila, who along with Foolish Pleasure and Genuine Risk (champion 3-year-old filly) is a member of the Hall of Fame. Manila was named champion grass horse in 1986, the year before Jolley became a member of the Hall of Fame.

Other champions trained by Jolley were Honest Pleasure (2-year-old champion male of 1975), What a Summer (1977 champion sprinter), and Meadow Star (1990 2-year-old filly).

Jolley walked hots for his father at age 7, and spent summers working in his father's barn. After one year at the University of Miami, he returned to work for his father. He took out his trainer's license in 1958. His first stakes winner was Ridan, the co-champion 2-year-old male of 1961.

"My father and my uncle were trainers, so I grew up around the racetrack," Jolley told BloodHorse in 2015. "You think, 'Someday I'd love to have a horse good enough to run in this race or that race.' And for me, Foolish Pleasure was the horse that won all of those races. He was an outstanding, great horse. He was a great competitor and no matter who you ran him with, he gave it his best and that's all you can ask of a horse or anybody else."

Foolish Pleasure (What a Pleasure—Fool-Me-Not, by Tom Fool) won three grade 1s at 2: Monmouth Park's Sapling Stakes, Saratoga Race Course's Hopeful Stakes, and Belmont Park's Champagne Stakes. He won the grade 1 Flamingo Stakes and Wood Memorial Stakes prior to taking the Derby and running second in both the Preakness Stakes (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1). He later added the grade 2 Donn Handicap and grade 1 Suburban Handicap.

In a 1987 interview with BloodHorse, Jolley's horsemanship showed.

"You watch how they handle their feet," he said, describing the search for yearling prospects. "You look for a horse with bright eyes and a bold, strong walk. You look and look, and finally they lead one out and there's something that just hits you."

Jolley is survived by two sons and a daughter.