Biography of Robert "Bob" L. Heleringer

Robert L. "Bob" Heleringer (pronounced "Hell-ringer"), the author of "Equine Regulatory Law," was born on May 14, 1951, in Louisville, Kentucky. His birth occurred in the week between the 1951 Kentucky Derby (won by Count Turf, Conn McCreary up) and the Preakness (won by Bold, "the Master," Eddie Arcaro up).

Bob Heleringer is the oldest of six children born to Robert C. (1926-2005) and Mary Lou (O'Donnell) Heleringer (1927-2004). Bob's Mother was the older daughter of long-time trainer and steward, Leo O'Donnell (1896-1993), and his wife, Fidelis (1906-2005). Bob's Father, also known as Bob Heleringer, along with his Father, A.M. Heleringer (1898-1964), were the founders of Heleringer's Furniture, a popular and successful Louisville business for 50 years.

Bob's younger siblings are, in order, Margaret Healy (Larry), living in Indianapolis, Nancy Wachs (William), Mary Grace Westman, and Diane Cashen (Chris), all of Lexington, KY. A brother, Joe (1957-2000), is deceased. Bob initially grew up in Louisville's South End, not that far from Churchill Downs, but with a growing family, his parents built a larger home in St. Matthews, an east end suburb of Louisville. There, Bob went to grade school at Our Lady of Lourdes. Taught by the Ursuline nuns (and a few similarly dedicated lay teachers), Sr. Anthony (6th grade) and Sr. Rosalita (8th grade) were his favorite teachers, both of whom (along with Bob's Mother --- a former high school English teacher), inspired and nurtured Bob's soon-to-be all-consuming interest in American history, government, and politics. Bob can still proudly recite, from memory, every member of President John F. Kennedy's Cabinet --- a requirement in Sr. Anthony's "Current Events" class. He could also tell you what each of those Cabinet members' jobs were/are --- another, more important component of that assignment.

While in high school, Bob worked in his Father's furniture store's warehouse --- and got his first real taste of hard-shelled, even bombastic political views (and of women and sports and life in general) of the warehouse crew's middle-class, blue collar workers. (The most eloquent and passionate of whom was foreman John Battisti.) It was a taste and a feel and an emotion Bob found utterly fascinating and so worthy of attention and respect. He would enthusiastically recall all of those sentiments later in his political life and was very proud --- fairly unique among Republican candidates --- to receive the endorsement of many labor organizations in almost every one of his races for public office.

After graduating from OLOL in 1965, Bob attended Trinity High School, walking the distance to that school every morning (that and the fact that Bob was born in Kentucky, is an attorney and a registered Republican are the only things he regrets that he has in common with his idol, Abraham Lincoln.) Trinity High School has been certified by all recognized authorities as the greatest and best high school in North America. In spite of that lofty designation, and the high standards that such a distinction implies, Bob has been named an "Honored Alumnus" and, in 1999, was admitted to the school's Hall of Fame. As far as he knows, Bob is the only member of Trinity's Hall of Fame who came within one demerit of being suspended from classes (senior year) and who went on to become both a lawyer AND a politician. At Trinity, Bob purportedly "grew up" and made many life-time friends --- alas, none of whom were female, Trinity being an all-boys school. He wrote for the school paper, "The Echo," and co-wrote and directed part of the Senior Class play. Bob's favorite teachers at Trinity, none of whom taught Math and only one of whom taught science, were Messrs. Maurice "Mo" Woods and Bob Pfaadt, and Frs. C.J. Wagner, Kevin Caster, Albert Moore, Thomas Duerr, Thomas Boland (who taught a Marriage[!] class; how prophetic he was, too. "What any successful marriage needs," he said, "is a real good sense of humor."), and Robert "Lad" Osborne (Father O couldn't remember names of his students, so he addressed everyone as "Lad".) To this day, Bob is still eternally grateful to Trinity Principal Rev. David Hazelip for letting him withdraw after the first day of senior Physics class. If not for that unprecedented gesture of human kindness, worthy of its own Nobel Prize, Bob would still be a student at Trinity High School.

After graduating from Trinity, Bob attended Xavier University in Cincinnati. The Jesuit priests Bob had as teachers there fully lived up to the sterling reputation that dynamic order of priests enjoys for its academic zeal (not too strong a description) and high intelligence. Bob fondly remembers these outstanding and dedicated professors including Frs. Thomas Savage (an ardent racing fan and not infrequent visitor to Latonia [now Turfway Park] and River Downs), Lee Bennish, Francis Johnson, George Curran, Edward Brueggeman, and Edward “Cake” Carter ("They call me "cake" because I'm easy," he announced on the first day of his Theology class. And he was as good as advertised, one of the few.), among others gone but not forgotten. Bob also dearly loved Professor Paul Simon, Xavier's esteemed History Department chairman. At Xavier, Bob was a columnist for the Xavier News and, after tirelessly working the dorms, was elected to the Student Senate. Bob's pungently conservative columns (the rather immodest name of his column was "Common Sense" outrageously lifted, with attribution, however, from another idol, Thomas Paine) were not always predictable: one of his favorite pieces was an enthusiastic defense of the mass anarchy of a large-scale food fight that erupted one desultory night in the school cafeteria that Bob found entirely justified as a legitimate act of civil disobedience in the face of Xavier's notoriously abysmal and nearly-inedible "institutional" food. In the spring of every year, Bob devoted one of his columns to a run-down of that year's Kentucky Derby hopefuls. In his Xavier years, Bob worked as a mutuel clerk at all of the Kentucky racetracks, inclusive of every night at Latonia, and thus was a proud member of the Pari-mutuel Clerks Union of Kentucky, Local 541, (Part-time member dues: $4.00 per month). Bob also made and still has today many lifetime friends amongst this unique and interesting group of people without whom, they all adamantly insist, horse racing throughout the world would simply DIE a terrible death. And, of course, they're absolutely correct on that point.

Bob continued his education at the University of Louisville, earning a law degree there in 1976. During the summers, Bob continued to work at racetracks in Kentucky, Maryland, and New Hampshire, but this time in the capacity of a racing official (thanks to the intercession of Bob's Grandfather, Leo O'Donnell). He worked for some outstanding Racing Secretaries of that era, among them Tommy Trotter, Clinton Pitts, Donnie Richardson, and Lou Dolan. During this time, also, Bob became a free-lance turf writer and had articles published in the Backstretch, Horsemen's Journal, and The Blood-Horse magazines and the Manchester (New Hampshire) Union-Leader newspaper. In law school, Bob was the editor-in-chief of the law school student newspaper and otherwise just tried to survive the ordeal. The best teacher Bob had in law school (as opposed to his favorite teacher) was professor David Leibson who had the distinction of excoriating Bob one day in class because he had the nerve --- despite a rather skillful job of camouflage --- of trying to read a Daily Racing Form during that Professor's otherwise thrilling and learned UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) class. Bob remembers defiantly telling this eminent law professor that, whatever he did with his law degree, that he would NEVER need to use anything he might learn about the Uniform Commercial Code in his post-law school legal practice. (Fast forward: yes, you guessed it, Bob's first published opinion in the Kentucky Court of Appeals was a case dealing with an interpretation of a provision found in the --- yep, altogether now -- the UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE. A sheepish Bob wasn't too proud to send a copy of this prediction-busting decision to Professor Leibson.) What Bob really got out of law school was a remarkable collection of, yes, even more lifetime friends who have gone on 36 years after they graduated to serve the legal profession as lawyers, judges, public officials, teachers, business people, community leaders, writers, thinkers, and also as wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, and now, increasingly, as grandmothers and grandfathers.

Upon graduating from law school in 1976, Bob began his practice of law the old fashioned way, by "hanging out his shingle." Bob never actually did find a real "shingle," but he did put his name in the telephone book. He was fortunate to come under the tutelage of a senior practitioner, William K. "Bill" Sparks with whom Bob was to have a lifelong friendship. However, Bob also got involved in politics right away, working in the campaigns of Congressman M. G. "Gene" Snyder (4th District -- KY) and State Senator Jon Ackerson (R.-Jefferson County). Jon got Bob a job in Frankfort (Kentucky's Capital) as the 26-year-old "Administrative Assistant" to the Republican Senate Caucus --- all 8 of them. (Today, there are 22 Republican state senators, more than enough for majority control of that 38-member chamber, an unimaginable prospect in 1977.)

Bitten by the political "bug," (and that bite can indeed be fatal), Bob filed to run, in 1978, for a suburban Louisville House seat in Kentucky's legislature. With a lot of shoe leather, help from a lot of extremely trusting people, good name ID because of the family business, and not one dollar of PAC money, Bob upset a 3-term incumbent and went on to serve 11 terms in the House of Representatives (33rd District). He served as Vice-Chairman of a number of committees, including the powerful Appropriations committee, and was known for his outspoken criticism of the profligate-spending Personal Services Contracts system. Working diligently for organizations representing disabled people and the state's signature industry, the horse industry, took up the lion's share of his time in the legislature. Bob was humbled to accept a number of awards at the conclusion of his legislative career. Another profession, more lifetime friends, from both political parties, and utterly impossible to name them all here.

While campaigning in his first election, in July, 1979, Bob knocked on the door of a young, beautiful, blue-eyed girl named Cindy Carby --- she wasn't even registered to vote --- but her sainted Mother, who was registered, allowed this "nice young man" into her home to sign up her single daughter. One thing led to another (Flannery O'Connor probably could have described this a little more artfully), telephone numbers were eventually exchanged, and that night (Bob was already in a hurry) a dinner date was scheduled. There ensued many more such dinner dates usually followed by an exciting and romantic balance of those evenings looking up telephone numbers (of eligible voters). Six weeks into this "courtship," (Did we mention Bob was in a hurry?), Cindy and Bob were engaged, but only after a near-desperate Bob overcame Cindy's Father's reservations about his 22-year-old daughter marrying "an older man," the 29-year-old Bob (a.k.a. Methuselah). In proposing marriage, Bob made Cindy two promises, both of which he is proud to say he has kept for lo these many years: "We'll (probably) never be rich, but it'll never be dull."

Bob & Cindy - June 28, 1980

Bob and Cindy were married on June 28, 1980, at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Louisville. Their 32-year union produced (not all at once, thankfully, but darn close) four children: Sarah (1981), Ann (1982), Tommy (1984), and Philip (1989). Sarah, a Miami (of Ohio) University graduate, is a sort-of full-time Mother to 4 children (Mitchell Reinhart is her spouse --- also her husband), "sort-of" because she is, in her spare time, a professional "doula," a licensed "hypno-birthing” instructor, and a professional photographer. She also writes beautiful poetry and something called "blogs;” Ann (U. of Kentucky graduate) is a full-time Mother (and occasional substitute early-childhood teacher), married to Bert Hughes. They have 2 children with one more coming soon; Tommy (Fordham U.) is a New York City resident and aspiring actor who has appeared in Off-Broadway productions and some independent films. (One reviewer described one of Tommy's recent performances as "buoyant," high praise indeed from the usually jaundiced NYC critics.); Philip, with great trepidation considering his Father's still-remembered reputation, is entering law school at the U. of Louisville, after graduating 1st in his class in the prestigious (the amount of tuition says it was DAMN prestigious) SPEA (School for Public and Environmental Affairs) school at Indiana University. Great accomplishments await this outstanding and hard-working young man. Bob has gone on record confidently predicting that Philip will NEVER be caught reading a Racing Form in Professor Leibson's (yes, he's still there) thrilling and learned UCC class. (Well, then, he might, but he'll be reading instead The Economist.)

In 2006, after Bob retired from the General Assembly, he and Cindy (mostly Cindy) extensively renovated and moved back into Bob's boyhood home in St. Matthews, where they live today, when they are not spending as much time as possible in their adopted "other" state, beautiful Vermont. Bob maintains his interest in politics, he ran unsuccessfully for a State Senate seat in 2008, and enjoys writing and publicly speaking out on the issues of the day, especially as they relate to the horse racing industry. Bob's writings have appeared as numerous op-ed pieces in the Louisville Courier-Journal and other publications. He remains ever-vigilant for the next interesting and exciting chapter in his (thanks be to God) vibrant earthly existence --- "My only goal in life," he said sometime right after he attained the age of reason, "is to never be bored."

Horse Racing Official

Bob has a deep background in racing --- his maternal Grandfather, Leo O'Donnell, was a prominent thoroughbred trainer, steward, and co-founder of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA). Bob's late Mother, Mary Lou, and then Bob's siblings raced a modest stable of horses in the 1990's and early 2000's, including the stakes-winning filly Put Me In, trained by Merrel Scherer. Bob helped put himself through college (Xavier University, 1973, A.B. in American History) and law school (University of Louisville, 1976) by working as a mutuel clerk and racing official at racetracks in Kentucky, Maryland, and New Hampshire.


Bob Heleringer was admitted to the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on October 14, 1976. He is a 1976 graduate of the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law of the University of Louisville, where he was editor-in-chief of that law school's student newspaper. In 2000, Mr. Heleringer was honored by the University of Louisville's law school as an "Honored Alumnus."

Mr. Heleringer has a full-time office for the general practice of law in Louisville, KY (office telephone: 502-327-6787; office fax: 502-327-6725; office e-mail: He also maintains a satellite law office in Brandenburg, Meade County, KY; office telephone no. there is 270-998-1300, where he is associated in practice with former Meade County Attorney Hon. Margaret Matney. Mr. Heleringer has practiced both civil and criminal cases, inclusive of appellate cases, in 35 of Kentucky's 120 counties and is admitted to practice before both the state's Eastern and Western District (federal) courts. He has appeared in other cases in other jurisdictions on a pro hac vice basis. On three separate occasions, he has filed amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) briefs in cases before the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Heleringer also does his share of pro bono publico work --- he was one of the first attorneys to volunteer --- in 1984 --- for the Louisville (KY) Legal Aid Society's Volunteer Lawyer Program.

State Legislator

In 1979, as a young attorney (age: 28), Bob was elected to the first of eleven terms in the Kentucky General Assembly, ultimately serving 23 years in the House of Representatives, representing a largely suburban district in Louisville's Jefferson County. In Frankfort (Kentucky's capital), Bob was an outspoken advocate for the horse racing industry and for the rights of people with developmental disabilities. He also ran, unsuccessfully, for U.S. Congress (1982), Mayor of Louisville (1985), and the Kentucky State Senate (2008).

Near the end of his service in the state legislature, in 1999, Bob accepted the daunting challenge of taking the place of the late Kent Hollingsworth as the instructor in Equine Regulatory Law at the University of Louisville's innovative Equine Industry Studies program. When he discovered there was no textbook on such a subject, Bob determined then and there to write one. 13 years later, he completed this mission and the book "Equine Regulatory Law" was published to critical acclaim (see link "Testimonials") from both within and outside the horse racing industry across America. While Equine Regulatory Law is a legal textbook for primary use in Bob's classroom at both the University of Louisville and Midway College (where Bob also teaches), the book is far more than the typically dry collection of legal opinions from leading Court cases on the subject at hand. Equine Regulatory Law is also a colorful history book, complete with many profiles and interesting background pieces about the important players over the last 120 years or so of this crucial chapter in horseracing's dynamic history in the United States.


Bob continues to be an advocate for racing both in and outside of the classroom and the halls of state government. He has already begun researching background for his next book --- a history of horseracing during the perilous World War II era. Bob lives in Louisville with his wife of 32 years, Cindy, and has four grown children and seven grandchildren. When he is not at the racetrack (Saratoga is his absolute favorite), he enjoys golf, reading, Civil War history, and talking (nonstop) the always exciting spectacle of America's greatest spectator sport, politics.