Bertie's Racing Cushions
Bertie’s Racing Cushions was only started a little over twelve months ago by Will and Lara Telfer, with their son Bertie in mind. He is only just two but he is the inspiration for his parents’ venture and is whom the business is named after. Each plump cushion is created from a darkly coloured wool - grey, black or navy - sourced from a local supplier in Warwickshire. Owners’ colours are then strikingly and beautifully embroidered onto this background. Yet, any “shape, size, colour or embroidery” can be tailormade. Though not the embroideries themselves, which are done by a family friend, the Telfers came up with the business idea. Lara says, “Every single cushion is handmade from scratch, and the embroidery is bespoke and unique to each cushion.” Cushions are made to order and work on an approximate 7-10 days turn around, though the more uniquely personalised ones may take a little longer.
Will, Lara and Bertie live in Wilmcote, near Stratford-upon-Avon, with Jack Russell terrier Cecil, and racing is their life. Lara is from a racing background. Her brother Ryan Mahon used to be a jockey for Paul Nicholls and is now a bloodstock agent. Her other brother Leo used to ride ‘pointing and her sister Ella is secretary for Dan Skelton. Before marrying Will, Lara was herself a champion novice point-to-point jockey and now is Marketing Manager at Cheltenham Racecourse. Will has been South Midlands Point-to-Point champion and rode about fifty winners ‘pointing, a few under Rules. In the past, he worked for Jonjo O’Neill and Nicky Henderson.
The colours in the Bertie’s Racing Cushions’ logo are, in fact, the Mahon colours and have been in the family for a very long time. They were Lara’s Grandfather’s, who was an influential figure in point-to-pointing. He was the first person to progress ‘pointing to Sundays and campaigned for the introduction of the air-cushioned whip and made the prototypes. In fact, the yellow, green and white spotted colours won an Aintree Foxhunter’s with Blue Cheek in 1997, ridden by Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton as an eighteen-year-old amateur, which makes a great family anecdote.
Lara and Will love their racing so much that it often spills over into their spare time. Will enjoys stewarding at ‘points but admits to enjoying golf too. Lara is a brilliant singer. Earlier in the summer she won the Furlong Factor, an online singing contest organised by Racing Welfare during the height of the lockdown. She has recently brought out her own album titled Reined In. As for Bertie, the racing bug is still in the future; for the moment, he’s into dinosaurs, tractors and farm animals.
Their favourite racecourses are Cheltenham, as Lara works there, and Stratford, for being their most local. Straight away, Bertie’s Racing Cushions provided the prizes to winning owners at Stratford and Fakenham Racecourses and it was by chance that the idea blossomed. Lara and Will had a cushion created for Harry and Bridget Skelton’s wedding, thinking that it was an ideal gift for newly wedded friends. Unknowingly at the time, this was the original, the architype! The business started from there and it has continued to grow.
The company is not limited to creating only cushions – there are doorstops, which are a lovely and useful alternative, and embroidered towels with colours or initials. In fact, there are no limitations to the embroidery, witnessed by the crest of Liverpool Football Club being created onto a doorstop! However, the items with owners’ colours lie closest to Will and Lara’s hearts – the list of which is very distinguished, including The Queen, JP McManus, Prince Khalid Abdullah and Qatar Racing. “We’ve done so many famous horses’ colours,” reflects Lara, “Frankel, Kauto Star, Denman, Silviaco Conti, Sprinter Sacre…We’ve been very lucky to do so many.” Photos on their website depict how many colours of all these big winners have been reproduced – Gold Cups to Grand Nationals, and even the latest Derby winner too.
“The great thing about racing is all the different people who own horses, love it,” Will adds. “The horses run in their silks, which means a lot to them and it’s a pleasure being able to create that for them. We also love making cushions for syndicates – we’ve done them for the likes of Highclere, Diva Racing, Million In Mind, Imperial Racing…Big syndicates are always fun to do.”
Paul Nicholls has been a great supporter and has ordered a “good few cushions”, as has Will’s best friend Olly Murphy. Jockeys who have purchased cushions include AP McCoy and Richard Johnson, as well as Oision Murphy, Tom Marquand, Hollie Doyle and the Derby-winning Emmet McNamara. “So many of the top people in racing have supported us,” says Lara.
Owners have ordered the cushions as mementoes for Royal Ascot winners, when the lettering is embroidered in a suitably regal gold, embellished with the delicate crown of Ascot Racecourse’s branding. More recently, creating cushions out of number cloths has proved very popular. Will points out, “We not only make number cloths cushions with material we purchase ourselves but people also send us number cloths and we make those into cushions.” Rachael Blackmore sent the number cloths from her Cheltenham Festival winning rides of A Plus Tard and Honeysuckle.
Will and Lara hint at the excitement of bringing out a new line of cushions very soon; they will be of a different design to the ones they currently produce. If anyone is stuck for a birthday present, a Christmas, wedding or anniversary gift, or if anyone wants a winner made into a lasting memento, then please take a look at their gorgeous creations.