Lady Bowthorpe is owned by Emma Banks and races at Royal Ascot this week
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Emma Banks may be agent to Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but today her focus will be on a four-legged superstar – Lady Bowthorpe in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes.
Banks, from Bedfordshire farming stock, has a pedigree in horses. Her grandfather Sidney has been commemorated in a handicap hurdle at Huntingdon ever since his death in 1973.
Her uncle Michael trained jumpers on a small but successful basis while her father, Richard, rode a horse once, fell off and swore to avoid them for the rest of his life. His passion became Luton Town FC, where he is a vice-president.
“When I was seven or eight, I was already petitioning for a pony and when I was 11 I got one,” recalls Banks. “A few years later I got handed an ex-racehorse who had clearly had no retraining.”
After school, she wanted to be a vet, then an actor but, figuring that “everyone has to eat”, she studied food science at Reading. It is not such a quantum leap to an agency from there, however; she started putting together and promoting university shows.
Emma Banks is agent to Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry and the Red Hot Chili Peppers
“From the age of 14, I’d been organising gymkhanas and there’s not much difference between running one of those and a gig,” she explains. “There’s a bit of an organiser element in me. I like starting with nothing and ending up with something. Reading was entirely responsible for introducing me to the music business.”
It was her father who pushed Banks into ownership. “He thought I was getting one-dimensional,” she recalls. “I pushed back for a bit, went to Goodwood where my aunt had a runner, met William [Jarvis, the trainer] and went to the paddock, where talking to the jockey seemed like going backstage at a gig.”
After that, she relented. “I was in New York, Uncle Michael and William called to say they’d bought a horse who was mine if I wanted him. I said ‘what colour is he?’ because that is the only thing you ever ask when you get a racehorse! But Lackaday was a fantastic entry [into ownership]. He won a race, was placed in a couple more and gave me the bug.
“The next thing was to get a yearling so I could name it. I got a colt, he had a cyst, he was operated on but had to be put down. I remember where I was when I took the call – in Bogota with Florence and the Machine having breakfast with Florence’s manager with tears streaming down my face.”
Three years in, Mrs Gallagher won in a photo-finish at Ascot, won two Listed races and took her owner to Royal Ascot. “I didn’t think we’d get better than that,” she recalls.
But then along came Lady Bowthorpe. “William says I’m lucky but it’s been painful as well. First time out, as a two-year-old, she was fourth and Josephine [Gordon] said she was not the easiest but that there was something there.
“Unless you have an arranged phone call from a trainer before 8am it’s never good news. ‘It’s not a disaster but the ambulance is here,’ he told me. ‘She has a fracture.’ She had five screws put in at the Newmarket Equine Hospital and that blew all our plans. There was no point in rushing after that.
“A year ago, no one was talking about her. Everything was underwhelming until that ride Kieran Shoemark gave her at Ascot in July which showed us what she was made of and her incredible turn of foot.
“When I started, William said don’t get emotionally attached. When Lackaday was sold, I cried for two days. His new owners recently got in touch to say he’s just won his first showing class. I cried again.
“I’m still pinching myself that Lady B ultimately came so close to Palace Pier in the Lockinge [in May]. What was really exciting was how far we left the others behind. A few days later, I was still reminding myself we hadn’t won.”
Lady Bowthorpe will be a short price today. “That doesn’t mean we can win – things go wrong,” says Banks. “I’d love to see a shower of rain but we’ll take it as it comes. She owes us nothing.”