Donn's Articles » Chris Jones

Chris Jones

Chris Jones is sitting in his office in Dublin city centre, talking about Klairon Davis.

“He was an amazing horse all right,” he is saying.  “The Arkle, the Champion Chase, two BMW Chases.  He won seven races in a row in 1993/94.  And he’s still enjoying life out with us at Killeen, 28 years old.  But he doesn’t seem to know that.”

Klairon Davis was owned by Chris’ late father, also Chris, but Chris kept the same colours, the exact same, all the way up to the hooped cap, and he kept the same registered owner’s name, C Jones.

“We’re superstitious like that.  Don’t change anything.  Dad got a great kick out of his racing right up until he passed away in 2013, out of the horses that raced in those colours, so we figured, why change?”

No reason.  The results continue to roll.  Tiger Cry won the Grand Annual at Cheltenham in 2008, What A Charm won the Fred Winter Hurdle there three years later.  Zabana won the Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown in April last year, Noble Endeavor won the Paddy Power Chase last December, Mega Fortune won the Spring Juvenile Hurdle in February.  And Mala Beach, trained by Gordon Elliott and winner of the Galmoy Hurdle in 2014, leads the Jones charge in the Troytown Chase at Navan today.

“Mala Beach has been an unlucky horse,” says the owner.  “He was only just beaten in a Thyestes Chase, and he fell when he was in front and travelling like a winner in a Bobbyjo Chase.  He missed a year and a half, but we have him back now.” 

It was a chipped bone in his knee that kept Mala Beach off the track after the Irish Grand National in March 2016, but his return at Galway last month could hardly have gone better.  He travelled well through his race for Davy Russell, he jumped well, and he stayed on well up the hill to finish a close-up second behind A Genie In Abottle.  After that, today’s race was always the plan. 

“We entered him in the Ladbrokes Trophy, the old Hennessy Gold Cup, at Newbury next Saturday, and he’s also entered in the Becher Chase and the Welsh National after Christmas, but the Troytown is the race for him.  It’s our local track, and we think the race will suit him.”

The Jones colours will be doubly represented in today’s race, with Space Cadet also set to take his chance.

“Space Cadet had a really nasty experience in the Leinster National at Naas last March.  A piece of birch went up through the front of his hoof right up into his pastern, lodged.  We had a really tough time getting him back, he may need the run a little on Sunday, but he is well.”

Jones’ goal is to run a streamlined operation with a concentration on quality.  Keep the numbers down and the quality high.  All the young horses are pre-trained at his 200-acre farm Killeen Glebe, beside Dunsany in County Meath, under the watchful eyes of Andy Lynch and Gearóid O’Loughlin, before they join their trainers. 

“We try to match the horse to the trainer,” he says.  “We are very lucky to have top class trainers in Andy Lynch, Gordon Elliott, Arthur Moore and Henry de Bromhead.  We try to place the horses with the trainers we think will suit them best.”

It can be a tough game though.  Mega Fortune was killed when he fell at the second last flight when all set to win on his seasonal return at Limerick last month.

“That was difficult to take,” says Chris.  “He was a young horse with his whole life in front of him.  I’m usually okay at dealing with disappointment, but that was different.  I was quiet for a few days after that.  He’s still the screen-saver on my phone.”

Zabana is with Andy Lynch.

“Zabana is great.  He just wasn’t well through the middle of last season.  He’s well now though.  He’d eat you in the yard.  His run to finish third at Down Royal last time was a really good run on ground that he wouldn’t have liked.  Davy came in and said that the spark was still there.  He’s a real good ground horse, we’re not hard on him during the winter, and we know that we will have him for the spring festivals.”

Ben Dundee is now with Gordon Elliott.

“He was good on his return at Punchestown, wasn’t he?  We had him at home, he had sore shins, but he is great now, and he has grown up.  He will go for the big handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse next week.  Hopefully he will be sharp enough for two miles. Davy likes him.  We’re lucky to have a top class rider like Davy.”

The relationship with Davy Russell was initiated by Chris’ dad.  Both Corkmen, they hit it off straight away.

“Sure you know all about Davy.  He’s great in so many ways.  Great horseman, great rider, great with feedback.”

Ordinary World and Paloma Blue are both with Henry de Bromhead.

“Ordinary World is an absolute two-mile chaser.  He ran very well at Naas last time on ground that was too soft for him.  He will be entered in the Tingle Creek, and he will either go there or to Leopardstown at Christmas. 

“Paloma Blue didn’t jump well enough at Naas.  He’s a bit of a Jack-the-lad, down the back of the class type of character.  But I think he was going too slowly over two miles and three furlongs at Naas.  He is entered at Punchestown on Wednesday over two miles, and hopefully he will jump better at a faster pace.  I haven’t lost faith in him though, and Henry likes him a lot.”

Exciting times ahead.

© The Sunday Times, 26th November 2017