When any of the major horse races occur throughout the year, life at Oliver Brown in Chelsea takes on a different, rather more festive, atmosphere. Kristian Ferner Robson is often to be found at the front-lines in the country from where he relays back his daily racing tips. These are duly posted in the shop where staff and customers alike hover about to see if their fortunes lie in the predictions therein.
Tea breaks turn into opportunities to dash out and place a couple of bob on the races—a way to squander or supplement one’s daily bread. The few televisions in the shop are tuned in throughout the day to broadcast proceedings and bring a bit of country life into town.
The culmination of these departures from the ordinary working week is seen in the way that everyone in the shop grows quiet and, completely without prompting, gathers around to watch each race. Life takes a moment to slow down and to focus on the joys of the majestic power of the horses and the jockeys’ athletic endeavour.
We were especially pleased that in the weeks leading up to Cheltenham, we were to receive several notable visitors connected to the race.
One of these was jockey Nico De Boinville (pictured above, left, riding Might Bite in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup) who stopped in to buy a new suit to wear at Cheltenham when not in his riding colours.
At this year’s meet, De Boinville was riding ‘Brain Power’, a 7 year old gelding, described by his trainer as a ‘seriously talented’ horse, though occasionally prone to being ‘overly-ambitious’.
‘Brain Power’ gave a good showing though, and came up second after ‘Footpad’ for the Arkle Challenge Trophy race at the Cheltenham Festival.
Having a mixed sartorial and equine interest is not unique to the customers and staff of Oliver Brown, but what is unique is the way in which the two worlds, sporting and tailoring, combine during the races. The shop becomes a social hub where anyone is welcome to talk, browse, and watch the races.