Ross Downs – Colleyville, Texas
The Ross Downs subdivision is located in the heart of the DFW Metroplex in Colleyville Texas. The city of Colleyville is synonymous with the comfort and convenience of its location. The city winding roads, magnificent homes, plush parks, and lush landscaping helps create a warmly inviting community.
Colleyville is located in northeast Tarrant County, adjacent to Grapevine, Southlake, and Hurst, a quick commute to DFW airport is only four miles away and ten miles from the Alliance airport region. Incorporated almost 50 years ago, Colleyville’s origins date to the mid-1800s.
Today, the city comprises 13 square miles and boasts a population of approximately 21,000 people and has more than 148 acres of parks with athletic fields, and jogging trails, as well as a beautiful Nature Center with ponds, picnic stations, and a fishing pier.
Before Ross Downs became an upscale subdivision, it was widely known as a premier horse racing facility, training and proving ground for some of the nation’s top speed horses. World champion quarter horses were fine-tuned, and many a bug boy learned his craft riding against veteran jockeys. There was a posted no-betting rule, but in the humble grandstand, it was not unknown for figures as high as $20,000 to be bet in a single wager on a favorite homebred.
The red earth of Ross Downs was ideal for many horse-racing legends in the industry, both equine and human. The track surface was forgiving of rain, and quick to dry, and the soil was loamy enough to keep missteps from ending valuable speed horses’ careers. The oak barns that Ernest Owen built himself were designed for Texas’ year-round climate, and each had roomy stalls with windows or doors to the outside world so that the horses were content gazing out as they munched their hay.
Stables were competitive on race days, but impromptu barbeques after evening chores would attract stable hands, trainers, and owners with their families to sit and tell “re-ride” stories on one another. People with names like Chili Red, Cotton, Skillet, Sleepy, Blondie Rocket, and Trainwreck were all part of an industry that required a lifelong calling.
In 1972 trainer E.R. Beddo, along with his wife Inez, sent out a world champion, “Gallant Jet.” Their home was on the track grounds, and the street named for them in the Ross Downs subdivision runs past where their home once stood. Further to the west, McMakin Court was named for David McMakin, trainer and starter, responsible for triggering the opening of the starting gates for every race. The Baker Court cul-de-sac was once home to the barn of Trip and Linda Baker.
Prior to 1955, the track was known as Lucas Downs, promoted by Joe Lucas of Grapevine, and match races with impromptu betting between participants and fans were the primary use. Ernest Owen acquired the land and immediately upgraded the tract, barns, and grandstand. Owen hired experienced track personnel, announced the weekend races, and supplemented the cost of trophies out of his pocket.
Related retail stores in Colleyville flourished, including Cecil Williams’ Red Barn Saddle Shop, selling horseshoes and repairing worn track; Kuykendall Tires at the corner of Glade Road and State Highway 26, providing trailer tires to haul horses; and the in-store café at the Burrus Grocery, cooking up the best sausage biscuit breakfast around for early risers and horsemen.
The final race at Ross Downs was run on September 2, 1990, after a lengthy battle for state pari-mutuel licensing between Ross Downs, Trinity Meadows in Weatherford, and two other proposed tracks. One of those, Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie, came out the winner for the Class 1 license and Trinity Meadows ultimately received another.
The Owens heaved a sigh and went on to develop the land for housing because it had become too expensive to keep the track strictly as a training facility for horses that ran elsewhere. Originally the development was to be called Twelve Oaks, but in deference to history and his eldest son Ross, who had worked so tirelessly at his side, Ernest Owen decided to keep the memory of Ross Downs alive with the same title.