‘Galway Downs, A Legend Reborn’ looks to the future

Galway Downs owner Ken Smith looks over the rendering of the historic equestrian facility that pictures the improvements at the Downs since he took over in 2010. His family has spent $9 million in improvements now seen at the facility that is fast becoming a dual venue for equestrian sports events and top stage entertainment attracting international attention. More improvements are planned. Tony Ault photo
Galway Downs owner Ken Smith looks over the rendering of the historic equestrian facility that pictures the improvements at the Downs since he took over in 2010. His family has spent $9 million in improvements now seen at the facility that is fast becoming a dual venue for equestrian sports events and top stage entertainment attracting international attention. More improvements are planned. Tony Ault photo

Editor’s note: This is the third and final part of a three-part series about the plans for “Galway Downs, A Legend Reborn.” This article discusses current events and upcoming happenings as well as future plans for Galway Downs.

The successful Clay Walker concert was the first step in the “rebirth” of Galway Downs into not only a recognized international equestrian event destination, but as the future location of a top entertainment venue in the nation.

Galway Downs, 240 acres of grassy fields, running streams, 400 recently upgraded horse stables, race tracks, equestrian training facilities, an inviting Village Center and the scene of countless weddings, sits just outside of the growing Wine Country of Temecula off state Route 79 at 38801 Los Corralitos Road.

After more than $9 million in major improvements to the Downs made by the new owners, Ken Smith and family, the plan to make “Galway Downs, A Legend Reborn” is rapidly coming into focus.

Smith explained that for years – since Galway Downs was first established in 1968 as a local equestrian center – it has been unstable with different owners coming and going. Seeing great potential in the large equestrian ranch, he said they bought it out of bankruptcy in 2010. The family set to work, renovating many of the deteriorating 400 stables, residential trailers, water and septic systems, polo fields and jockey quarters while long time Equestrian Facility Manager Robert Kellerhouse continued to attract some of the top jumping horse and dressage events to the grounds.

The older polo fields, save one large field, were improved, bringing many additional soccer and sports teams to the downs to practice and compete.

Yet, something still needed to be done, Smith said, then he began to realize the Downs might not survive financially solely as a sports and equestrian center.

“Historically, what has happened here is that the participants were their owners’ close family and friends had not put enough time and energy into trying to make equestrian events more spectator friendly,” Smith said. “We are going to focus on making those equestrian events more of a spectator event – we are not obviously going to make it a Kentucky Derby – but move it toward an event and not just for equestrians.

“It’s perfect here in the middle of wine country. For wine country people coming here and are looking for something different, this is a beautiful outdoor environment to walk around and enjoy yourself, and we will be adding other elements that will make these things even better,” Smith said. “Even if you are not the strongest horse enthusiast, you will come out and enjoy some of these other activities. Then you may say ‘Wow! I really like these equestrian events.’”

He said for Galway Downs to continue to grow the equestrian and entertainment events need to compliment and support each other.

To fulfill this thought, Smith has already rebuilt the large horse barn on the property, making in into an air-conditioned, luxury “Carriage House” restaurant and bar; created a series of ponds with a running stream surrounded by comfortable patio tables; a wine bar and an outdoor stage area with a grass-covered, sunken seating area.


Thousands and thousands of trees of every kind are now planted throughout the Downs, providing shade and cooling comfort to both animals and people using the facility. Lilies have sprouted in the ponds; colorful flowers are bursting open, making the Village area a beautiful location for weddings and parties.

Another piece of the Smiths’ plan to make “Galway Downs, A Legend Reborn” fell into place, Aug. 27, with the appearance of country star Clay Walker viewed by nearly 1,000 clapping and cheering spectators.

Another country singing legend, LeeAnn Rimes, is set to arrive at Galway Downs Sunday, Sept. 17, as a part of the “Rhythm at the Downs” program promoted by Jon Dellaria of Coordinex Worldwide Entertainment.

Now, Wedgewood Galway Downs hosts hundreds of outdoor weddings each year that may include use of the Carriage House, the rustic barn and the stunning meadows under the large oaks. Antique horse-drawn carriages are available for transportation around the Downs where bride, groom and party guests can view the sleek thoroughbred horses in training, sports teams practicing and other attractions.

Meanwhile, with summer coming to a close, Galway Downs will continue to build its symbiotic equestrian and entertainment relationship with special events that may coincide with each other. Already scheduled on the equestrian side is the Sept. 16-17, Oct. 28-29 and Dec. 2-3 Hunter Jumper HJ series; the free admission ‘Head to Hoof: A Celebration of Horses’ Oct. 1 and the major Galway Downs International Three-Day event Nov. 2-5.

Smith said the promoters are working on adding some type of music event to each of the equestrian events, particularly with the International Three-Day Event to open them up for more spectators. The lineup will be announced at a later date.

Entertainment events coming this fall include LeAnn Rimes, Sept. 17; Octoberfest with music, beer and wine offerings and “Christmas at the Ranch” in December.

“We will have ice skating, Santa Claus, Christmas carolers, lights and maybe even a Ferris wheel to see all the Christmas lights,” Smith said.

Does it stop there? Smith said “No!”

Inside of his construction trailer that has been the headquarters for construction crews at the Downs for several years, Smith spends time with his contractors looking over a much broader plan and maps for the facility through 2020 and beyond. He is looking to spend another $6 million in improvements on the 240-acre ranch that he would not immediately reveal. But it is coming, he said.

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