Jeff Hiles, assistant trainer to Kenny McPeek, has a different perspective on Memorial Day weekend after serving five years in the United States Marines.
“I had the greatest job in the world with the Marines,” Hiles said. “I was based in Hawaii for five years and eventually promoted to Sergeant. The Marines taught me a lot of lessons in life – most importantly, to be disciplined. A lot of the lessons cross over to horse racing.”
Hiles, a native of Frankfort, Ky., is the son of veteran horse trainer Rick Hiles.
“I always wanted to get into horse racing; it’s in my blood,” Hiles said. “I worked off and on prior to the Marines with horses but stepped away completely in 2001 to serve our country. Once I finished my service I worked in construction and auto sales but always had the end goal to be in horse racing as my career. I took out my trainer’s license to claim a couple of horses on my own and start things from scratch. But, just like the Marines, I thought I needed to work my way through the ranks. I worked my tail off to begin my career with Kenny. I sort of did anything we needed around the barn – clean stalls, groom, push feed carts and hot walk. I was based at Keeneland for a while and when the opportunity at Churchill came about Kenny trusted me to step up.”
Hiles, 38, helps oversees McPeek’s Churchill Downs string of horses along with veteran assistant Greg Geier.
"It's a lot of work but well worth it in the long run," Hiles said. "I love this sport and my country. I'm glad I was able to serve in the marines then return to work in the industry I love."