Life behind the stable door

Karon Brown pictured with Milo
Karon Brown pictured with Milo
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As Ryedale prepares to celebrate its racing community, Sarah Lally meets the woman organising the Malton Open Stables.

The historic market town of Malton in North Yorkshire is home to some of the most successful racehorse trainers in the country and one woman is on a mission to promote the town’s racing community to a national audience.

“Malton is the Newmarket of the North,” says Karon Brown, partner of racehorse trainer Tim Etherington and the woman tasked with organising tomorrow’s 
Malton Open Stables event which 
will see 20 trainers opening their doors 
to the public for a peek behind the
scenes of some of the country’s top training yards. “It’s an opportunity for us to showcase our yards and share the passion that we have for our local racing industry.”

Karon’s own passion for racing began at the tender age of five, which she attributes to growing up with a ‘racing mad Dad’ and Saturday mornings in front of the television watching highlights of the week’s racing.

“Some of my earliest memories are of the regular family outings to our local racecourse at Beverley, where I got to experience the horses and jockeys close up, rather than from a television set. Needless to say, from a young age I was hooked.”

On leaving school, there was no doubt about the career path that she would take and following some time spent learning the ropes with Beverley-based trainer Alf Smith, Karon developed her skills as a pupil at the British Racing School in Newmarket. “Like many youngsters my dream was to be a jockey, but unfortunately I grew too big and I soon realised that the head girl route would suit me better, so I returned to Yorkshire to put my new found skills into practice,” says Karon. She is keen to encourage young people to follow in her footsteps and has arranged for the Northern Racing College to be in attendance to chat to aspiring young jockeys at the open day.

Despite having spent the last 20 years supporting Tim training horses, Karon still describes herself as the ‘head girl’ and whilst some trainers’ wives might prefer to steer clear of yard duties, she revels in the challenge of running a happy and successful yard.

“We make a good team as we both understand each other’s roles, so whilst Tim is organising entries and covering the office management side of things I am out managing the day to day running of the yard. It has worked for us for the last two decades so we must be doing something right.”

This drive and enthusiasm was soon picked up on by Malton Racing Association which took Karon up on her offer to bring back the famous Malton Stables Open Day last year. The event had not been run for over 10 years, in part due to the introduction of Sunday racing which meant that trainers would find it difficult to open, as well as the lack of volunteers to organise the event, which Karon initially found daunting.

Previous attempts to revive the event failed to get full support, but it was a local tragedy that inspired the trainers to open their doors to the public in 2012. The Malton fire that claimed the lives of aspiring young jockeys Jan Wilson and Jamie Kyne proved to be the catalyst for resurrecting the event with Racing Welfare and the Injured Jockeys’ Fund seeking funding to build safe purpose- built accommodation for stable staff in the area.

“The loss of those young jockeys hit the local racing community very hard and trainers had wanted to do something meaningful that would prevent future tragedies, which is why the event is run in aid of the Jack Berry House in Malton,” says Karon. The event also raises funds for Malton Hospital and the Yorkshire Air Ambulance as they are both organisations that the local racing community rely on. “We want the open day to continue to have a positive legacy for the local racing industry and one of the ways in which we can do this is by raising vital funds for those charities that are often there to pick up the pieces when things go wrong.”

For Karon it is important that the event continues to grow each year and involves as much of the local community as possible. So this year, with everything from exhibitions by local racing photographers to demonstrations by charities focused on re-homing racehorses at the end of their careers, she has got it covered. This year she has even been able to add celebrity guests to the line up with John Francome and Jack Berry contributing to an all-star question and answer session for all keen racing fans. “Our aim is to open up the world of racing to everyone, particularly those who have maybe never been to a racecourse or even patted a horse before,” says Karon. “You can become a racing fan at any age and I hope that this event will inspire more people to visit Malton and get behind the North’s largest racing community.”

A grand day out at Malton Open Studios

The Betfair Malton Open Stables event takes place tomorrow, Sunday, August 25 with 20 trainers’ yards opening from 8.30am until 1pm and events happening throughout the day at various locations.

Admission is £10 for adults with accompanied under 12s free. This includes entry to all stables and a park and ride bus service which will take visitors around all local yards. The price also includes a discounted entry to Beverley races in the afternoon. For further information visit their website where a full list of attractions can be found alongside a map of the yards.