Emma Lavelle Racing: picking up speed for the new jump season - & a visit from the neighbours
It had been a particularly busy week, with runners at Huntingdon, Kempton, Exeter, Chepstow and Newbury, but that didn’t stop local racehorse trainer, Emma Lavelle opening her doors on Friday morning to residents from the three nearby Ogbourne villages for the annual locals’ yard visit.
A string of bay beauties powering up the emerald turf towards Barbury is a familiar sight for early morning dog walkers and riders on the Marlborough Downs and today’s tour gave some of them a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes, and the extraordinary organisation required to get the most out of the 68 horses currently in training.
Improvements are continually made to ensure the best possible conditions and environment for the horses fortunate enough to be in the care of team Lavelle. The operation runs like a well-oiled machine and the stables and training facilities are some of the best in the country.
Bonita Racing Stables dates back to the 1890s and, while the yard retains much of its heritage and historic charm, it has undergone something of a transformation since Emma and her husband, Barry Fenton, took up residence in 2016.
The original stables were completely refurbished and an additional stable block and American barn were built alongside. A tennis court made way for a new deep sand school and the ultimate all-weather surface was laid last year on the four-and-a-half furlong gallop.
The spectacular grass gallops are steeped in history and were declared by Lester Piggott to be the best he had ever ridden on.
The yard visit was also an opportunity to get up close and personal with the gorgeous gelding who has become something of a local legend. At this year’s Cheltenham Festival, Paisley Park concluded a phenomenally successful campaign that saw him undefeated in all six of his races, with a win in the Stayers’ Hurdle - the leading long-distance hurdle event in Britain's National Hunt calendar.
Paisley Park was back in the spotlight on Thursday (November 7), with a training gallop around Newbury Racecourse alongside stablemate Hawk’s Well. The outing was an exercise to gauge where he is at with his preparation, in advance of an eagerly anticipated return at the end of the month - during Newbury’s Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.
In his usual style, he quickened in the final straight and, his delighted trainer said: “He did everything he needed to do and was still tanking at the end.”
Paisley Park’s owner, Andrew Gemmell, a horseracing aficionado who has been blind since birth, has been nominated for Owner of the Year in the annual Horserace Writers & Photographers Association's Derby Awards taking place next month.
Ownership opportunities exist for those who aspire to follow in Andrew’s footsteps. Alternatively, to experience the thrill of owning a racehorse with much less of a financial commitment, Bonita Racing Club membership buys a small stake in three promising prospects and the chance to meet and share the experience with likeminded folk.
The most established of the trio is Misty Bloom (photo below), a six-year-old who Emma describes as 'as tough and consistent as they come'. She has been placed in the top three in twelve of her fifteen starts so far.
The new Bonita Racing Club member who flew in from the Netherlands to watch her race at Wincanton on Saturday (November 9) was not disappointed – she powered home in the Richard Barber Memorial Mares’ Handicap Hurdle under conditional jockey Ben Jones, leading by six or seven lengths, giving Emma Lavelle her twentieth win of the season.