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The Story Behind the Racing Silks: Foxcroft Racing Stable

April 4, 2024

Established in 1991, Foxcroft Racing Stable is comprised of brothers Steve and Dave Foxcroft, who are both sports officials. Steve is an NBA and NFL official, and Dave is a CFL referee.

Sports officiating is a family affair for the Foxcrofts.

Their father Ron, a celebrated basketball referee, who currently works for the NBA, invented the Fox 40 whistle. In 2019, he was appointed to The Order of Canada, in honour of his business and community contributions.

Ron Foxcroft
Ron Foxcroft

The brothers’ love of horses and sports goes stride-for-stride with their interest and involvement in horse racing.

Steve Foxcroft has officiated since he was 14 and has been a part of the Buffalo Bills chain crew at their home games since 1993. As part of the chain crew, he keeps track of the downs at the downs’ box for about 10 games per season.

He is also a replay official for the NBA, specifically for the Toronto Raptors’ home games. Steve has refereed seven of the Final 8 Canadian university basketball championships and has refereed in the United States at the NCAA level, including Atlantic 10 Conference, Colonial Conference, and Metro Atlantic Conference games.

Steve Foxcroft
Steve Foxcroft

“I’ve only missed one Bills game in 31 years. It was the COVID year (2020-2021 NBA season) because I moved to Tampa for six months to be the replay official for the Raptors games. One day there was a conflict where they both played on the same day.”

A lifelong sports enthusiast, Foxcroft shares what originally drew him to the sport of horse racing.

“At a young age, I went to see the Standardbreds at Flamboro Downs and fell in love with it. Then at an older age, a friend of mine, Steve Begley, loved horses as well and he wanted to be a hotwalker. He came to the race office and said, ‘I want a job’.

Soon enough, Foxcroft would walk the walk.

“They put him on to [Thoroughbred trainer] Franz Crean. They said that Franz could probably help him out since he’s a good horseman and good with people. So, they pointed him to Franz, and he started hotwalking. Then he told me about it, and I came in and started hotwalking as well.”

Foxcroft was initially drawn to the ownership side through the challenge of trying to figure out which horse would win based on stats of the racing form. He also enjoyed the behind-the-scenes moments, seeing how the horses are taken care of by grooms and trainers.

“It was twofold. At first, it was going out and enjoying a day at the races and the gambling aspect because it was a challenge. I’m a numbers guy. Here are these numbers and you try to figure out the answers. It’s kind of like solving a math problem. While you’re at it, you get to be around these beautiful animals. It’s this combination of doing two things at once that is really cool. The challenge of the aspect of trying to figure out a page with numbers on it. It’s an equation you have to try to figure out and there are so many variables. That’s the initial attraction.

“The ownership part came too. Previously being a hotwalker, I prefer the backside, as I love the action of it – the behind-the-scenes stuff. I really enjoy going there on the mornings of the weekend and being in the barn, seeing how the horses are looked after so well, and going to the rail and watching the workouts. Not a day goes by when you don’t learn something. You get to know the people involved too. That was part of the initial attraction because I started on the backside as well as the front.”

After a year or two of hotwalking, Foxcroft was introduced to racehorse ownership.

The story behind the name of his first horse is an interesting tale in itself.

“With the refereeing money I made, I got into a horse with Franz. He let me have a share of a horse named Play on the Ice. He was a great horse that we bought in Kentucky. What sold us on the name was when he got to Franz’s farm and got off the trailer, he went running out in the paddock and slipped on ice. We thought he was going to break a leg or something.

Chairman Fox and jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson winning Race 1 on November 13, 2022 at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)
Chairman Fox and jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson winning Race 1 on November 13, 2022 at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)

“But he got up and kept on going so we called him Play on the Ice. The sire was Tiffany Ice, so it was a perfect play. We were already going to go with something like that.”

Foxcroft purchased a share of Play on the Ice, who ran in the Foxcroft Racing Stable silks.

“Franz was so nice that we’d run in my silks. I bought just enough of the horse that I could run in my silks.”

Play on the Ice made 99 career starts with 18 wins. His racing career, which spanned from 1991-1997, saw him compete at Woodbine, Greenwood, and Fort Erie.

“Early on, one of the thrills was when we had [dual Hall of Fame jockey] Sandy Hawley ride him. We didn’t win the race with Sandy, but when he got off, he gave us some good advice, and sure enough, we won the next time out. It’s a good story. We’ve had horses ever since.”

Foxcroft Racing Stable’s silks include black and white halves, a black fox head emblem against a white body, black sleeves, and a black cap.

Its A Fluke and jockey Rafael Hernandez winning Race 4 on October 10, 2023 at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)
Its A Fluke and jockey Rafael Hernandez winning Race 4 on October 10, 2023 at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)

The brothers went to great lengths to ensure they were happy with the design of the silks, which they began using just under 35 years ago. The shirt features black at the bottom to separate the white of the shirt from the white of the jockey’s pants.

“I kind of went ahead and did it knowing that’s what I wanted. I knew he’d also love it, him being a referee too. You had a choice of picking a year or a lifetime and I, of course, said, ‘I’m a young kid, I plan on having horses forever, so I did the lifetime one. For me, it was a no-brainer.”

Foxcroft designed the silks knowing that his brother Dave would approve.

“The idea behind them for me, was always about officiating because our family grew up as sports officials. With my dad, then myself, and my brother. Everyone was into sports officiating, especially me with football and basketball. You always think of black and white stripes with an official, which was my starting point for the silks. I didn’t think black and white stripes would look great, so I went with the black and white halves, and I thought that would look better. The whole identifier was the black and white.

“With our name Foxcroft, I wanted the fox head because we had just done that with the [Fox 40] whistle. The whistle was invented in 1987, so we were just getting going. The fox head was our symbol. It’s a happy fox, he’s in a good mood. I went with the black and white halves as well because I thought the black fox head with the upper side of the white would stand out nicely. It’s always very personal to talk to people about their silks.”

Foxcroft silks
Foxcroft silks

Fine-tuning the look of the silks was a labour of love.

“The original hat was four panels, black and white quarters, but it got lost. So, they usually just wear a black hat, and it caps off nicely. You can spot your silks with my colours.”

What the silks represent to his family is deeply meaningful to Foxcroft.

“It’s simple and personal. It represents my life, my name, my occupation, and my passion.”

Seeing them on the racetrack is always a thrill.

“It’s so exciting to see your silks, I still get a kick out of it. I still think it’s a big deal when the jocks come out and wear your silks, it’s still invigorating 30 years later.

“Sometimes you bring new friends to the track, and you can tell them about your silks. You can tell your story, which I think is part of it. It helps in the whole story of introducing people to the sport. I get a kick out of that. Most people when you introduce them to the sport, they don’t even know about it.”

Catching them in action the first time remains a treasured horse racing moment.

“It was to me like if you have kids playing in sports or performing,” offered Steve. “It’s such a proud moment. It’s so exciting, still to this day.”

Horse racing also provides Foxcroft with an escape from the pressures of officiating.

“The racing part becomes a beautiful distraction for me. Everything else is highly intense under a microscope and when I’m at the races dealing with the horses, I don’t have that. That’s my escape – even though I’m more nervous at the races than at the NBA games.

“With my officiating experience, I understand the whole role of the stewards and the judges. It’s unique that I have that understanding of that side of the business. If there’s an inquiry after a race, I can view it as an official. It’s kind of neat how the sports intertwine.”

Sophie Charalambous, for Woodbine Communications

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