Rogue Element a Good Investment for Jeff Hiles

September 9, 2022

FRANKLIN, Ky.— Earlier, this year trainer Jeff Hiles figured that claiming the gelding Rogue Element for $20,000 was just one of those bad investments that happen. After a 41-length defeat, Hiles took the gelding off his owner’s hands, thinking that he might make Rogue Element a stable pony.

Rogue Element at some point will be looking at a post-racing second career, but not any time soon. He’s got other business to tend to, including running in Saturday’s $1 million, Grade 2 Kentucky Turf Cup, one of six graded stakes heading the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs’ showcase card.

Rogue Element was cut out to be a good horse, selling for $250,000 as a yearling. His connections thought enough of him that he ran as a maiden in both the Florida Derby and the Ohio Derby. Off a 7 1/2-month layoff, he was dropped into a $20,000 last April at Keeneland when Hiles dropped the claim for him. He was second that day but then lost his next five races by double-digit lengths.

“He had some issues and I think they’d just kind of given up on him,” Hiles said of first getting Rogue Element. “He had some problems, but we did right by the horse, took care of him and got him over it.”

Rogue Element lost by 41 lengths — “He didn’t even get out of a fast gallop” — with Hiles telling his owner: “I know you’re tired of paying bills on him. I’ll just take him.’

“I thought I just was going to eat the horse,” he said. “I said, ‘I’ll give him a couple of shots. If he doesn’t show he’s going to be a racehorse, he’s going to be a pony for the barn.’ He’s a beautiful horse. If you saw him, you’d think he’s a Grade 1 champion.”

Hiles said Rogue Element began thriving once he shipped his stable from Florida back to Kentucky. He won a $20,000 maiden-claimer at Keeneland, then followed that with a victory June 9 in a 1 1/8-mile starter race for horses that had run for $50,000 claiming or cheaper. It was his second start on grass.

With Churchill Downs soon thereafter shutting down turf racing and Ellis Park having a lot of races taken off the turf because of rain, Hiles has not been able to get Rogue Element back on grass until Saturday’s 1 1/2-mile race.

“If he takes to this course, the up and down hills, I think he’ll surprise some people,” Hiles said of Rogue Element, who is 30-1 in the Global Tote morning line. “I’ve been very fortunate. He’s made about $70,000 this year and won two races. I feel bad for the guy who gave up on him. I didn’t give up on him.”

Hiles is off to a fast start at the meet, winning two races on Monday. Time for Trouble ($16.84) took a $160,000 allowance race and Natural Power ($42.92) won a $170,000 allowance races – purses that are bigger than many stakes races.

“I’m not really focused on the purses,” Hiles said. “But just to win a race here is good, or to win a horse race anywhere. It’s always challenge. We’re in a game where if you win at 20 percent you’re considered doing good, which means you lose 80 percent of the time. So to win a race is one thing. To win two races in the same day is another. To win here two races in the same day is really big for me.”

Now Hiles is in a $1 million race. He believes one thing going for him is that Rogue Element is part of Hiles’ stable at the HighPointe Training Center in Oldham County, which has an uphill synthetic training gallop.

“He’s doing great,” Hiles said of Rogue Element. “The thing is, if you’re going to take a shot like this, this is the place to do it because the distance, for one, not every horse can get it. Then the up and down hills, some horses just won’t run on it, some will. If you’re going to take a chance on a $1 million race with a grass horse — I think he’s strictly a grass horse, even though he won on dirt — I thought why not give him a shot?”

Hiles is in his own second career, having spent five years in the Marines. His silks are navy, red and white, with red sergeant stripes on the sleeves to reflect his rank when he got out of the Marines. The son of veteran trainer Rick Hiles, Jeff Hiles worked as an assistant trainer to Kenny McPeek before going out on his own five years ago with just a few horses. His barn now has 35 horses, with Rocket Ship Racing a major client.

By Jennie Rees – Kentucky Downs Press Release

Photo: Trainer Jeff Hiles at Churchill Downs (Coady Photography)

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