Chris Downs, Upton Yard Successes
Great teamwork and some impressive horses are helping put the Upton yard at Cullompton firmly on the racing map.
Cullompton-based trainer Chris Down has become known as a dab hand at making money out of horses. He trained Rhacophorus, who won a listed National Hunt flat race at Aintree and then sold at Cheltenham for £220,000 in 2006 to race in Ireland. Chris was also responsible for Sir Harry Ormesher, who was sold at Cheltenham in January for £75,000 after winning two races for his trainer.
If Iamagrey, a three-year-old filly, lives up to the good impression she is giving in her work at home, she could well make her new syndicate a tidy profit. Owners, who gave an initial outlay of £4,500 (inclusive of all training fees, vets bills, transport, jockey fees), become part of the six-strong syndicate, which started on 1 June.
Chris explained: "The idea is for everyone to pay a sum which will see them through until 1 January. It's a very nice opportunity to purchase a horse and it's a way for us to get new owners into the yard. There are no hidden costs and we hope to do this with more horses."
Top league horses
The horse is the first crop - or first foals - sired by Clodovil, a promising young sire. Trainer Mick Channon, who saddled the brilliant fillies Queen's Logic and Flashy Wings to win the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, trains Moss Likely, whose entries this summer include the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury in July and the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes on the Curragh in July. That puts her in the top league and a perfect advertisement for Clodovil and his progeny.
"She's been up to Alan Walter for some schooling over jumps and we are very pleased with her," said Chris. Given that Walter is the equivalent of a jumping guru, a compliment from that quarter bodes well.
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Chris has first-class facilities at Upton, which is on the outskirts of Cullompton, including an all-weather jumping lane, a four-and-a-half furlong uphill gallop, and a three-furlong circular sand gallop. Added to that, owners who come to Chris are guaranteed to feel part of a close-knit team.
Amanda Denny, who is involved with owning horses at the yard, said: "Chris and Faye (his wife) are so friendly. You can phone at any time with any query and you are always made to feel very welcome. All the owners I have met are wonderful and I've made some very good new friends. The staff are lovely too and they will always stop and talk or answer any questions."
Nice horses and nice winners
After successfully riding and training point-to-pointers, Chris took out his licence to train under Rules in 2002 and since then has steadily built up to a yard of 35. The winter game is his passion, although he will have half a dozen horses to run during the summer. He said: "I don't want to go the summer-jumping route as it is a different ball game. The summer is the time when we have a break, disinfect the stables and have a sort out. We also break any horses then too, including for Bill Bromley."
It is Bill Bromley (who bred both Rhacophorus and Sir Harry Ormesher at his Wood Farm Stud) who has proved so good for the yard, sending a handful of horses to Upton each year, well-bred horses who have become the yard's flag-bearers. "It is good for us that he sends such nice horses. That's what we want, nice horses and nice winners."
Teamwork is also evident at Chris's yard where Chris Honour is the stable jockey and staff include Danny Burton, Dan Salter, Dan Carey, Jo Rust, Sophie Purchase and Vicky Gravett. Their son Richard also acts as assistant trainer as well as running the fishing lakes and five luxury log cabins located on the farm. He rode a point-to-point winner, but being built more like a rugby player (he plays for Cullompton) than a jockey, his riding career was quickly curtailed.
He said: "I'm still very much involved with the horses and help Dad whenever I can. We opened the lodges on Good Friday and they tie in perfectly with the training. There is always something to do around the place, like maintenance in the stables."
With Faye Down's penchant for providing a warm welcome in her kitchen - the hub of life at Upton - racehorse ownership becomes an attractive proposition, especially given there's a chance a profit will be made at the end of it.
The Mid Devon Show, near Tiverton on 26 July, promises to be a feast of entertainment with the Rockin' Horse Stunt Team providing the display in the main arena. From the Russian Cossack School of Trick and Stunt Riding, they have over 20 years of experience in horsemanship and entertainment will include the rider climbing under the belly of the horse when it's galloping at full speed and the Roman Ride when the rider stands on the saddles of three horses while they gallop across the arena.
Information about the Mid Devon Show can be found at www.middevonshow.co.uk
Racing action in July takes place at Newton Abbot Racecourse on Monday, 14 July and Sunday, 20 July and there is Arab racing at Exeter Racecourse on Saturday, 5 July.
Affiliated horse trials take place at Southcott Farm, Winkleigh on 20 July. The course is located in 280 acres of rolling Devon farmland and woodland. With a mix of good cross-country fences and with catering on site, it's a great way to spend a day in the countryside.
Three days of show-jumping will take place at Bicton Arena near Budleigh Salterton from Friday 4 to Sunday 6 July. There are six jumping arenas and some of the leading names in show-jumping will be competing. www.bicton-arena.co.uk
For those of you who like to ride in different parts of the county, a picnic ride takes place on Sunday, 13 July in East Devon, near Axminster. For more details call (01297) 678182.