Day At The Track

Getting to Know You with P J Fraley

04:12 AM 11 May 2014 NZST
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P J Fraley, harness racing P J Fraley, harness racing P H Supercam, harness racing
P J Fraley and fellow horsewoman Katie Gene Miller
P J Fraley
Photo by Vicki Wright
P H Supercam is the current star of the P J Fraley Stable
Photo by Mike Lizzi


Stabled at White Birch Farm in New Jersey, harness racing trainer PJ Fraley, 37, currently has forty horses under his care. PJ, (Paul Fraley Jr.) has his top flight horses race at the Meadowlands for the most part, however PJ also races at Yonkers Raceway, Pocono Downs and Chester.

"I grew up next to a training center and hung out there a lot" says PJ about how he got into horse racing. Hailing from Marshall, Michigan PJ's dad knew he wanted to get into horse racing from a young age, though PJ's mom wasn't as thrilled at the concept.

"My mom never wanted me to (go into horse racing). They would hear the 'bad' stuff about it and how kids get caught up into bad things." PJ explains.

"I'm a calm and quiet guy" says PJ. "I'm a people person; I know how to deal with people and keep people happy but keep myself happy at the same time." One thing PJ emphasizes is not letting anything get to him, or bog him down. I think if you let things weigh on you in this business, you will die a slow death. I won the Levy and I was up in the sky for about six hours. I went home got a nap and first thing when I got up I was on my way to Pocono."

On April 26th, 2014 at Yonkers Raceway, the $567,000 George Morton Levy series final took place and PH Supercam, trained by Fraley and driven by Jason Bartlett beat fan favorite Foiled Again (who finished third) and Apprentice Hanover (who placed second) in a mile of 1:52.3

"I couldn't believe it" PJ says on the victory. "To beat a horse like Foiled Again who has so much class. What a great horse. Nobody thought PH Supercam was going to beat Foiled Again"

To date the big 2014 Levy upset win is one of PJ's most memorable races. It truly sticks out for him because in a way, PJ noted it's a race his horse wasn't supposed to have won. With a horse like Foiled Again in such a race, it's comfortable to say the majority of fans expected Foiled Again to win. Yes, given Foiled Again was the odds on favorite is another dead giveaway too.

Winning two Breeders Crowns with two different horses is another pinnacle for PJ. "With two different horses, you know you're doing something right." PJ says.

"All great horses have an aura about them; one thing is they know they're that good. I think they know when they get to the Winner's Circle. Some of them thrive on that" explains PJ. "I took care of a horse, a very good horse Mr. Muscleman (over $4 million in winnings), and he thrived on getting to the winner's circle. That's why he wanted to be first, great horses know how to do that. Horses are a lot smarter than people think they are."

"There are horses with personality and horses without... they're such docile animals" says PJ.

The best advice PJ has ever received came from one of his mentors Noel Daley, "look straight ahead and don't worry about what the other guys are doing." PJ recalls. "That always stuck in my head. I think that's the problem with this business, 90% of the problem in this business is everybody is envious of the next guy."

"Whoever is doing well, somebody else is going to be envious of that and you're going to get bad reviews out there" PJ states. "Like Noel said, worry about what you do here and don't worry about what everyone else does."

"If somebody beats me, I congratulate them" says PJ. "Every time Foiled Again wins I congratulate Ron Burke and even the small guys... I will congratulate everyone."

What frustrates PJ is after so many years of working in the horse racing industry; the same people who knew him from the age of 19 turned their backs on him. Once he started doing well, people who he's raced against for over a decade started to talk bad about him behind his back.

It's this type of infighting PJ believes the sport needs to rid itself of in order to be successful once again. Another aspect PJ feels is vital to the future success of harness racing is having more national television coverage.

"I remember when I was kid and watching races on ESPN. They would have 'three races of the week' and I would be sitting at home thinking, 'I want to meet John Campbell one day' and that's what brought me to the Meadowlands." PJ continues, "I wanted to meet Doug Brown and Ron Waples in Canada, saying that, you need to put it out there for people so it can create a buzz."

"The social media, I like that" says PJ. "I'm on Facebook and I'm on Twitter and I get people I don't know messaging me saying congratulations. This guy from Ohio text me out of nowhere and asked me 'what can I do with my horse?' I don't mind helping, not that at all."

"Being a good person and having a lot of friends" is what PJ would like fans to know matters most to him. "I walk into the paddock and I always say hi to all the grooms and I know them all by name. I remember when I was that kid and trainers would say hi to me, it was like 'whoa they said hi to me!' "

"I like treating my help well and I have full confidence in all of them." PJ states, "I respect everyone whether I like them or not. I'm not one to dislike many people... that is just me and my choice. There's no reason to be hateful towards anybody, you see everybody every night of the week... you have to be able to get along with people. That's what matters."

When the season is in full swing, PJ is up from 6:00 am and sometimes doesn't get home until 1:30am. The next day it's the same schedule, a grueling schedule but in order for the work to be done, this is what is required. With the exception of his off days, on those days you can find PJ unwinding on the golf course.

PJ is a big thoroughbred fan and he's travelled to great tracks like Belmont and Del Mar. "I got to meet Bob Baffert and he took the time to talk to me like a normal person. He took time out for the next five mornings and he stood beside me as he took me through his barn. He let me walk Game On Dude and took pictures with the horse. Just a great guy!" says PJ.

"I'd like to meet Mark Casse (top trainer at Woodbine Racetrack), I like the way he runs his operation and it's the right way to do it. I want to do it like he does it."

Roderick Balgobin's column will appear weekly on Harnesslink. You can contact him at rod.balgobin or Twitter: ScSupernova





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