Editor’s note: Major entertainment and equestrian events are happening at Galway Downs in Temecula that are bound to attract far more long-sought tourism to Temecula and Temecula’s Wine Country. The ambitious plan, titled “Galway Downs, A Legend Reborn,” is well underway by new Galway Downs Owner Ken Smith of SFT Realty Galway Downs and is discussed in this continuing series by Valley News writer Tony Ault. Last week Smith officially announced the stage appearances of country music “legends” Clay Walker and LeAnn Rimes at Galway. More top-rated entertainment from stage shows to equestrian events is coming to enjoy the $9 million facility rejuvenation, almost completed, with more planned improvements on the way.
With Galway Downs booking two great country-western singing stars and other major stage and festival events, Galway’s longtime Equestrian Facility Manager Robert Kellerhouse is looking to invite even bigger national and international horse shows.
Galway Downs continues to host top three-day national equestrian eventing under Kellerhouse’s leadership and is looking ahead to invite even more all-around equestrian events, which promises to make Galway Downs and the surrounding area better known as a top-tier tourist attraction.
Kellerhouse said Galway Downs has been “unstable” with different owners since 1988; however since 2010, Smith has invested millions into the facility, continuing to repair and remodel 400 permanent stables, 200 temporary stables, rental park homes and jockey buildings, putting in new water lines and planting thousands of new trees for the benefit of local and visiting equestrians. The polo and training fields are lush and green again. He has rebuilt the old barn and landscaped the surrounding area, creating a running stream, lily ponds and an outside stadium that can be converted into a skating rink. The parking lots are level and cleared.
Because of the improvements, Galway Downs and its new “Village” has become a popular wedding and corporate party destination in addition to the equestrian improvements.
“Now it has found its identity through the ownership of Ken to the Wine Country Community Plan, which has allowed the property owners in this area to, not just go for housing development for their property, but actually bring tourists into the area,” Kellerhouse said, reflecting on Galway’s history and rebirth.
“Through this property, we’re able to bring in the people to equestrian events and the equestrian activities and people who just want to be surrounded by equestrian activities, or people who just basically want it to be a beautiful 240-acre venue close to Los Angeles and San Diego,” he said. “Now we have the owner who likes the place. Who has put his money where his mouth is and when it comes to the property, has gotten behind the property for years of investment in order to make it so it’s a financially sound model. What that says to me is we can actually be here in the future. It has finally found some footing, not only for the years I have been here, but in the future.”
That optimism is quite a statement from Kellerhouse, who recalled his 20 years with Galway in less stellar times under the many previous owners. Smith said he kept Kellerhouse on because no one knows better the history, needs and possibilities of the facility.
“The new shows coming down the pike provide a lot of opportunities for us,” Smith said. “We want to be everything to everyone, and we can. It’s just a huge property. We can have a reining cow horse arena, and we can have a fantastic track skill for jumpers, and we have a fantastic footing for dressage horses and we have a fantastic area for reining horses coming.
“This place has a lot of scope,” he said and explained that Galway Downs has far more space with its 242 acres as compared to 50 acres or less that most of other local equestrian facilities have.
“This place has an endless amount of space for it to expand and grow and make other events very successful,” Smith said. “We are looking to open up our doors to AMA High Jumper shows next year. It is one of the three Olympic disciplines. So that means we have all three of the Olympic disciplines that involve equestrian sports at Galway.” He noted it would mean the top jumpers in the world would be able to come to Galway.
Another part of the planned equestrian expansion will be an event for spectators and fans to capture the attention of tourists to Temecula and Wine Country and local people, he said. To help with this goal, Smith said they have partnered with top Iranian Hunter Jumper Olympic competitor, Ali Nilforushan, who lives in Chino and is an equestrian event promoter.
There are seven equestrian events scheduled for 2017.
The Galway Downs Hunter Jumper 9 of 2017 Galway HJ Series with IEHJA, OCHJA and GSDHJA is scheduled Sept. 16-17.
The Rancho California Arabian Horse Association will host its fall show Oct. 1.
The Horses Head to Hoof: A Celebration of Horses event, Oct. 1, offers free admission.
The Galway Downs Hunter Jumper 2 of 2016/2017 Galway HJ Series with IEHJA, OCHJA and GSDHJA is scheduled Oct. 28-29.
The Galway Downs International Three-Day Event will be held Nov. 2-5.
Lastly, the Galway Downs Hunter Jumper 3 of 2016/2017 Galway HJ Series with SEL, IEHJA, OCHJA and GSDHJA is set for Dec. 2-3.
Those equestrians wishing to enter these events can see the prize list, find entry forms, place online entries and see the results at www.galwaydowns/schedule.net.
Expected to return in 2018 are many regular events like the Galway Hunter Jumper events, the Galway Downs Winter Horse Trials, Galway Downs International Horse Trials, Galway Downs Spring Horse Trials, Galway Spring Dressage, Valley Quarter Horse Association events, National Plantation Walking Horse Association, Southern California Reining Cow Horse Association and the Temecula Valley chapter of the California Dressage Society Recognized and Hunter Jumper Faux Show, along with new events promoted by the Galway equestrian partners.