THIS IS FINDON VILLAGE — these
Findon Chronicles were created by Valerie Martin and contain scenes from her home
village of Findon,
West Sussex, U.K. Everyday stories about real people.
A PERSONALITY OF FINDON’S PAST CAPTAIN RYAN PRICE
Copyright Valerie Martin 2003
I have discovered that two incidents occurred in 1912 that affected Findon. Firstly, a horse by the name of “Jerry M” won the Grand National for Robert Gore at Downs House in Stable Lane. Secondly, a baby was born on Friday, 16th August 1912 and christened Ryan. His father was George Penry Price and the baby was to grow up to be the Master of Findon, Captain Ryan Price.
The Captain had a fifteen-year successful partnership with a young jockey named Fred Winter — and later with another new face, Josh Gifford.
The Captain was the type of man who made sure everyone was terrified of him (would he have survived today?) and he was quick to spot a horse with potential — and also a good stable lad or apprentice. He did not suffer fools gladly, as many jockeys and Findon stable lads who displeased him were to find out over the years.
The picture I have gleaned of the Captain is that he was born with the conviction that it is never a wise thing to let one's left hand know what the right one is doing. He gave his best all the time to everything and in return considered he had the equal right to expect the same deal from others around him.
During the Captain's tenure, many winners flowed from the village to the very heart of racing and brought a measure of prosperity and employment to the community here.
Ryan Price with Persian Lancer (like many of Ryan's old favourites he spent his retired life of leisure roaming the Findon downland). The veterans lived out in all weathers and some of their names will be remembered — Kilmore, Hill House, Le Vermontois, What a Myth, Major Rose, Charlie Worcester etc.
He was a tough boss. One day Josh Gifford received a telephone call from Bobby Renton — who was an owner wanting him to ride for him. Josh was all ready to go to Worcester for a Findon horse. The guv'nor said —
"I'll let you off Worcester — if he pays you £200 to ride his horse".
(A jockey's fee back in those racing days was around only £25.) Josh telephoned Bobby and said he would ride for him — but didn't mention the stipulated £200. Josh told the Captain he had received the money and he let him go off to Worcester and was none the wiser.
The Captain hit the top of his chosen profession and trained Kilmore to win the 1962 Grand National.
When he sold Downs House and the stables to Josh Gifford, the Captain moved out of Downs House to Soldier's Field. Here was a new house designed by his wife, Dorothy. He continued to have as much success here with Flat horses as he had with his jumpers.
The Captain notched up a grand total of more than 2,000 winners coming out of Findon. He was five times champion National Hunt trainer between 1954 and 1967. Sadly he did not bring back a Derby winner for Findon.
Dennis Pitt summed the Captain's life up when he emailed to me in November 2012....."The Greatest Trainer of the All....Thank you for your very interesting web site. I grew up in the 1950s and the late Captain Ryan Price was my hero.
In my opinion he was the greatest trainer of all. His stable jockey then ,the late Fred Winter was , again in my opinion, the greatest jockey of them all. I have both their autographs.
I was at cheltenham races in 1969 when What A Myth won the gold cup. His training performances were phenomenal. Winning the Schweppes was an annual event.
I backed Rosyth when he won the first running in 1963 at 20-1. I was still at school and had one shilling each way.
I always thought that Major Rose was a little unlucky not to beat Persian War in the 1968 race. However he was up against one of the best hurdlers ever, as Persian War went on to win the first of his three Champion Hurdles a few weeks later.
I wonder if any old videos are available of the Schweppes. It would be marvellous to see them again. Thank you again for your website. Dennis Pitt, Ludlow,Shropshire".
The Captain retired in 1982 and was unfortunately dogged by ill health. Con Horgan (born in Cork) who had formerly been assistant trainer for nine years, took over the yard at Soldiers Field at this juncture. The Irishman had a bad first season with only four winners to his name. After six months, the Captain removed his own horses from the Soldiers Field yard and sent them to David Oughton and Gavin Hunter. Another blow was added when Ken Higson removed his horses.
It was not until July 1983 that Irish born Con Horgan had his first win when Fast Service won at Bath.
Con Horgan was unable to negotiate a new lease on the Soldiers Field stable (still owned by Ryan Price in 1985) and the Findon stable was taken over by John Dunlop on a five-year lease. Con Horgan moved his stable of thirty-five to the 90-acre Billingbear Racing Stable. The Captain was unable to comment on the matter at the time because his wife, Dorothy, said he was ill.
In 1985 Con Horgan left Findon to move to Binfield near Wokingham where he hoped to expand his string of racehorses on his newly acquired 80 acres (including grass gallops and a proposed one-mile all-weather strip).
John Dunlop then used the Soldiers Field yard for mature horses.
Continue if you would like to read My Way.
THIS IS FINDON VILLAGE —www.findonvillage.com is a continually growing record created exclusively for documenting life in Findon.
Do let me know of anything you hear about Findon - not too controversial. Please note that opinions expressed in the Findon Chronicles are not necessarily reflective of my own thoughts.... but sometimes they are!