News of the passing of trainer LeRoy Jolley at the age of 80 Wednesday in upstate New York immediately reminded us of a conversation with the Hall of Fame horsemen back in late August 2016.
The conversation came a few days after Arrogate destroyed the field in the Travers Stakes, a sublime 13 1/2-length victory made even more impressive because it came in track-record time to boot. Jolley, who passed away at the Albany Medical Center after a battle with lung cancer, trained the previous record holder General Assembly.
Jolley tipped his cap to Arrogate, who subsequently proved the performance was no fluke with victories in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup.
“Arrogate ran a huge race and is a very deserving record holder,” Jolley told The Saratoga Special’s Joe Clancy while taking a break from his small string on the Saratoga backstretch.
General Assembly was just one of several top-class horses Jolley trained during a career that spanned seven decades from 1959 until his final starter this past November. Inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1987, Jolley trained Hall of Famers Genuine Risk, Foolish Pleasure and Manila, champions Honest Pleasure, What A Summer and Meadow Star and major stakes winners Ridan, Gulch, Optimistic Gal, Track Barron, Mogambo and Rose’s Cantina.
General Assembly won four of 11 starts with three seconds and a third during his 3-year-old season in 1979. He won the 1 1/4-mile Travers in 2:00 and the record stood until Arrogate’s victory in 2016.
Here’s a look back at Jolley talking about General Assembly in Joe’s blog “The Outside Rail” that also appeared in the Sept. 2, 2016 issue of The Saratoga Special.