An Interview with Top Owner Miss Jayne Brace
There is no lovelier owner then Jayne Brace, who got into racehorse ownership through her family’s involvement in racing over the years. She owns racehorses along with her father Gwyn, and in the memory of her late mother Dorothy. The racehorses currently running in their bright red and yellow silks are Lord Bryan, Landofsmiles, Courtland, Paddy’s Return and Another Lord.
Gwyn and Jayne
Jayne speaks of a country childhood, surrounded by ponies in rural Wales. ‘I was born in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire,’ she says. ‘My parents, Gwyn and Dorothy were childhood sweethearts and lived in the neighbouring villages of Carew and Cresselly. Dad was in the Police Force, so we moved a few times around South and West Wales when he took up different posts. However, from the age of thirteen I have lived in Coychurch, Bridgend.’
over time, Jayne's childhood interest in ponies blossomed into horses. Both have remained a huge part of Jayne’s life and happiness, being there even through the sad times too. ‘Sadly, I lost my dear Mum in 2009, so my Dad is my immediate family. I am an only child and young, free and single...Ok, may be not so young!’ Former racehorses retire to Jayne and Gwyn’s home to live out their days at pasture, mixing with their youngstock and ROR star.
As well as owning racehorses, Jayne keeps busy with a keen involvement in showing and judging. As well as horses, she owns a fourteen-month-old miniature Dachshund called Judy and an eleven-month-old Norfolk Terrier called Rosy. To a lot of owners only the winning matters, but Jayne is testimony that horse welfare is of the utmost importance – though when they occur, the winners are celebrated in the most hearty and memorable ways.
Past horses in training and their trainers:
Willows Roulette – the late Andy Hobbs/Dai Burchell.
Willows Maybe – Andy Hobbs.
Skiffle Man – Andy Hobbs.
Red Canyon – Andy Hobbs/Colin Tizzard/Peter Bowen.
Harry May – Colin Tizzard/Peter Bowen.
Magic Show – Peter Bowen.
Get Home Now – Peter Bowen.
Royal Craftsman – Peter Bowen.
Clover Park – Peter Bowen.
Bishop Wulstan – Peter Bowen.
Prior to 1997 and these horses running under Rules, we used to have a number of Point-to-Pointers.
The Braces in their 'pointing days - Jayne, Gwyn and Dorothy
Please list the retired ones you have at home and their ages:
Red Canyon – 24yrs
Get Home Now – 13yrs
Royal Craftsman – 11yrs
We very sadly lost Willows Roulette (Roly) only a few weeks ago, aged 29yrs.
Do you breed or buy your racehorses?
When I was young, my family used to breed all its racehorses for point-to-points.
Willows Maybe and Willows Roulette (pictured) were the last two of our homebreds. Since then, we have bought all our horses but over the last six years, we have started buying foals to rear on.
Did you have a horsey childhood?
I grew up virtually being able to ride before I could walk!! My Grandfather used to breed and show Hunters whilst my Mum used to ride show ponies. They started me off in a chair saddle on my little Welsh Mountain pony called Teddy.
I then progressed through my childhood riding Show Ponies, Working Hunter Ponies, Showjumping, Pony Club eventing and Team chasing.
I represented Wales numerous times in Working Hunter Pony competitions up until my twenties.
Please describe your career in showing:
My parents were most supportive of my Showing and travelled the length and breadth of the country taking me to Shows.
One highlight of my Pony days was in 1981, after winning the Working Hunter Pony championship at the Bath and West Show, I paraded in the main arena alongside Aldaniti and Bob Champion, who had just won that year’s Grand National.
After the ponies, I moved onto Show Hunters and have ridden at the Horse of the Year Show. My Small Hunter, Little Man, came from the late, great Bill Bryan (Karen Bowen’s Father). I also had a heavyweight hunter with him too, so spent a lot of time with the Bryan family.
I was elected on to several Judging panels at around twenty years of age and am currently a HOYS/RIHS star judge on a number of different society judging panels. I have been lucky enough to judge at nearly all of the major County shows throughout the country over the past thirty-five years. I also travel regularly to Ireland to judge and have been lucky enough to go as far as South Arica judging.
I judged at the Horse of the Year show the very last time it was held at Wembley and have judged at its current venue at the NEC, Birmingham.
The Royal International Show at Hickstead is another show I’ve been invited to numerous times, including Judging for two days there this year.
Currently, I am Wales Chairman for the British Show Pony Society.
Please detail your involvement in ROR:
Royal Craftsman (Robin) is one of my ex-racehorses that, for the past four years, I have competed in ROR classes.
I bought him as a three-year-old at Doncaster Sales, he was placed in two out of his four Bumper races for us and then ran in six hurdle races but wasn’t the bravest!! We could tell that he probably wasn’t going to trouble the Judge much as he wanted to look after himself too much and was never going to get into a racing battle. After a little spell being turned out, I decided to show him in the In Hand ROR classes and here he has found his forte as he really loves himself!!
We started in 2018 with him winning both of the qualifiers for the ROR Finals in Aintree. He went in and came 3rd in the Finals themselves. In 2019 and again in 2021, he won both qualifiers he contested and finished sixth and seventh respectively in the Finals.
It’s great fun!! Everyone is so friendly, it gives our much-loved ex-racehorses a chance at another career and to enjoy themselves.
What was the first racehorse you owned?
Under Rules, the first racehorse running in my name was Willows Roulette (Roly) trained by Andy Hobbs. He was bred by Dad. We also bred his Mother and Grandmother, who both ‘pointed for my family.
What was your first winner?
Roly was my first winner Under Rules in my name on the 21st May, 1998 over hurdles at Exeter.
I remember it was an unbelievable feeling seeing our little homebred galloping up the hill to win! What was even nicer was that Carl Llewellyn rode him and I’d grown up with Carl in Pembrokeshire and had competed in showjumping against him and his brother.
What was the inspiration behind the design of your racing colours?
Our colours are Red with a Yellow Diamond and circles on the sleeves. As a child I used to ride cross country wearing a sweater in similar colours. Mum and Dad said they were always easy to see and pick out, so those were the colours we registered!
Do you purchase photographs of your winners?
Yes, we do buy photos of all our winners. It’s lovely to look back and remember what a wonderful day each one was
Do you have any favourite out of racehorses you owned?
I love all my horses, that’s probably my biggest downfall, I’m too sentimental!!
Roly, however, was very special to us as he was my first winner Under Rules and our last homebred. For over half of my life, he was always there, losing him a few weeks ago was heart breaking; he was like family.
What is your favourite racecourse?
My favourite has to be Perth at the moment!! We have a 100% strike rate there! Two road trips up there and two wins!
We always enjoy the country courses where you see the enthusiastic country racing crowd and have a more personal atmosphere at courses such as Ludlow, Sedgefield, Bangor, Wincanton, Taunton, Hereford, Chepstow and Ffos Las.
Market Rasen and Newton Abbot have also been particularly lucky courses for us and are most welcoming.
Which racecourses look after owners the best and why?
There are lots of differences in the way racecourses look after owners. From our point of view, all we would like is to have a nice meal, somewhere to sit, chat and watch the racing.
Bangor on Dee and Ayr are particularly good on owners’ hospitality with excellent food and plenty of room to be seated.
Aintree, Cheltenham and Newbury all have good food but can be more crowded.
What has been your best day’s racing as an owner so far?
Every day’s racing is a good day, as long as horse and jockey come back in safe and sound; that to us is the most important.
To ordinary family Owners like us, winners don’t come very often, so we cherish every win and place we have racing.
Winning the Perth Gold cup has probably been our proudest day.
How do you name your unnamed purchases?
It’s really hard naming the youngstock! We used to use our Pony stud prefix of “Willows” but don’t now.
Dad and I both try and name the horses together. Dad used to do a lot of Point-to-point commentating so he always insists that the name is straightforward to pronounce and rolls off the tongue easily!! We try and look at the breeding of the horse and include this in the name.
We are fortunate to have, what we think is the best named horse in racing, Landofsmiles...no credit goes to us as I bought him from Ireland already named…it’s such a happy, feel-good name...every person who hears it smiles and says how lovely it is...incidentally, it suits the horse so well, as this sums up his whole loving nature. He is the kindest, most giving and honest chap you could come across and gives his all for us.
Please detail what it is like to be an owner at the Bowens’ yard:
Being an owner at the Bowens yard is just like being a member of an extended part of their family.
I’ve known Peter and Karen most of my life. They both used to ride ‘pointing years ago and when we were ‘pointing we were always together. When I finished riding ponies, my first Small Hunter I showed, Little Man, came from Bill Bryan. Karen’s father and I also had a heavy weight hunter with him showing.
Over the years, I have watched their three boys, Mickey, Sean and James grow up to be the talented young men they are today.
Peter, Karen and all the staff care very deeply for all the horses in the yard; no stone is left unturned and they want for nothing.
Their house and yard are always open and welcoming... All the Owners are great friends and we all support each other’s runners at every fixture.
We all take the good and bad days as they come. That’s racing for you, but we are all in it together through thick and thin.
Please describe the feeling of winning the Perth Gold Cup:
Winning the Perth Gold Cup this year was truly beyond all our expectations!
We travelled to Perth 6 weeks prior to the Gold cup to run Smiles in a Novice Handicap Chase. I actually drove him up there in our lorry myself, a ten-hour journey!! He did us proud that day by winning and seemed to really handle the course well.
Race day presenter, Gordon Brown, commented after the race ‘maybe we’ll see Landofsmiles back for the Perth Gold Cup in six weeks’ time.’ At which, we all laughed and said, ‘That’s way beyond us!!’
On returning home, Dad even said, ‘Perth’s such a long way, I won’t be going back up there again!’
However, our trainer had other ideas. Having previously enjoyed great success in the Gold Cup, and in other of the bigger chases there, he was most keen for him to take his chance…
Therefore, six weeks later saw us on the long ten-hour trek up north again… albeit this time, Smiles was in the care of Emma Rees (head of travelling to Bowens’) going ahead in the lorry. We had to stop off en-route to pick up the trainer and jockey from Worcester races, and everyone fitted into two cars; we went up in convoy.
Just to add, Dad was also on board. Having threatened to stay at home, he just couldn’t miss out on the outing, especially with Peter saying, ‘we’ll be celebrating without you in Perth if he wins.’
The Gold Cup day itself saw a few more people allowed to attend than were at the previous meeting due to Covid restrictions being relaxed, and the atmosphere was very welcoming and friendly.
Probably the most relaxed and laid-back person of all of us there was dear Smiles. He just took it all in his stride, no one told him it was a Class 2 race and the biggest race we’d ever had a runner in!! He was amazing!! James and he just gel together so well and travelled so comfortably throughout the whole race; jumping from fence to fence with no fuss or bother. Coming round the final bend he moved to the front so smoothly, a sight we could hardly believe!! He was joined over the last fence but dug deep, as is his nature, and pushed his head over the line in front. The last furlong I was watching through tears, whilst jumping and shouting at the same time!!
I am quite well known for getting very excited in galvanising my horses up the home straight, but my goodness, there’s nothing like it, seeing your darling horse try his very best to do well for you. It really was a special day. The hospitality of the racecourse was superb; they commented that they had forgotten how the Welsh like to celebrate!! The celebratory champagne reception was allowed on Gold Cup day, which had been missing due to covid on our previous visit.
What do you love about racing?
I enjoy the whole racing experience, from seeing our young horses grow and develop to actually reaching a racecourse. We have the added bonus that we look after the horses here at home when they are resting, making us feel a greater part of their life. As I said previous, winning is what we would all want to do, but having the horses and jockeys home in one piece after each race is the most important thing to us.
How could racing be generally improved?
Needless to say, better prize money would be a great improvement to National Hunt racing, especially to placed horses. There is also too big a gap between the money awarded to the Winners and placed horses.
I also think that Owners with horses in current training should be allowed an entrance pass to attend any other meeting other than when they have a runner. We like to support all our local tracks but feel that with the expense of having a few horses in training if we want a day out without a runner we have to pay to go when we are spending thousands of pounds a month on keeping racing going through our own training fees.
Have you ever had a racing hero?
I admire everyone in racing as its hard work every single day, and there are good days and bad days, but everyone keeps going and pulls together.
However, my dear Mum used to be a big fan of John Francome. She used to say jokingly that he was the only man she’d leave my Dad for, and that used to crease us up!!
What youngstock do you have to race in the future?
Apart from the horses listed in training, I have a two-year-old by Mahler to come on in the future.