One of California's native sons, Bruce Headley has been training Thoroughbreds in the Golden State for 50 years.
Two main things impressed me about trainer Bruce Headley. The first is the closeness of his family and the obvious time and effort they have put into building a life around a sport they love. Both of his children -- Gus and Karen -- are trainers. And Headley insists that his wife and lifelong sweetheart, Aase, is the "brains" of the operation.
The second thing is Headley's incredible memory and his connection to and respect for the great California trainers of the past under whose tutelage he learned his trade.
Headley was born in Baldwin Park on February 14, 1934 and grew up in Southern California when it was still a land of orange groves and dairy farms. He was introduced to racing at the age of six by an uncle who worked at Santa Anita, and he quickly fell in love with Thoroughbred horses, leaving home at 15 to live on a ranch and learn to ride racehorses.
When his weight caught up with his height and he realized he would be too big to continue as a jockey, he turned to training in 1959. But he transferred his knowledge and passion for riding to the jockeys he worked with and to his two children. Headley helped launch the riding careers of Eclipse Award winning apprentice jockeys Steve Valdez and Robyn Smith.
He trained Eclipse Award winning sprint champion Kona Gold, who at the end of his racing career served as Headley’s stable pony until his retirement to the Kentuky Horse Park. He also trained multiple graded stakes winners Got Koko, Kalookan Queen, Surf Cat , Variety Road, Bertrando, Silveyville, and Son of a Pistol, as well as a long roster of other graded stakes winners.
In this Trainer Snapshot video interview, Headley talks about his introduction to Thoroughbred racing, riding styles and how they have evolved, and what he loves about training horses.