By Jon Lees
GB: Down in the Valley of the Racehorse the hills are alive with the sound of music. Quite literally.
But the nuns on the run in Upper Lambourn are not Sister Maria and her novices, but jockeys and grooms performing for Jamie Osborne’s latest viral video.
Since the coronavirus lockdown the only winners coming out of the trainer’s Old Malthouse yard have come from his iPhone.
So many that Osborne – once likened to actor Mike Myers’ character Austin Powers by US trainer Bob Baffert – can now boast a back catalogue amost as big as his (alleged) Hollywood lookalike.
When it comes to social media, Osborne, 52, surely has few peers. During the racing season his daily video updates of his runners and life in Lambourn have earned him nearly 40,000 Twitter followers.
Since racing in Britain was suspended until the end of April his output has become even more ambitious as he set out on a mission to lift spirits during challenging times.
“We have had some beautiful mornings here in Lambourn and I thought with the bulk of the population not being able to see these beautiful places it would be nice to show them off,” explains the trainer.
“That was my initial motivation,” Osborne goes on. “My first few were very samey, all pretty pictures and mushy music. No one wants mushy music anymore, they want to have a laugh. Then I got more imaginative and a bit more stupid in a way.
“It has gathered a bit of momentum and I’ve now made a rod for my own back and I’m not sure how long it will be before we run out of ideas.”
In the last week tens of thousands have viewed Osborne’s version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, Paul McCartney’s We All Stand Together, James Bond plus Climb Every Mountain from The Sound Of Music.
“Basically it’s me and my phone using the very simple iMovie app,” says Osborne. “I just started playing around with it in moments of boredom.
“The staff love it. It’s got to the point that the team here are looking forward to the next wacky idea. They are all up for it; they all want to be in it. If I forget someone they are unhappy!”
Osborne says his movie-making sideline has helped keeping spirits up in his Lambourn stable. “It’s been a good exercise in yard morale,” he reports.
“There is an awful lot about this job that is repetitive, it’s not necessarily easy work, and so when your work is not getting tested it’s very easy for morale to fall.
“This wasn’t necessarily my initial motivation but it has turned into something that has kept us all amused during these dark days. The staff can see the reactions this is getting and the feedback has almost exclusively been positive from people we don’t know, which encourages us all to keep doing it.
“I am sure none of us expected to live through a scenario like this. Everybody has their own set of worries but if we can lighten the load in a small way then it’s kind of worthwhile.”
The output has been nearly daily as Osborne makes use of spare time, in the season spent making entries for horses, liaising with owners and travelling to race meetings.
His Sound Of Music video, featuring a number of well-known jockeys, has proved the most popular and has had more than 33,000 views.
“The first shot in the film was first lot, then there was second lot and when they finished riding out in the morning, I told the staff, ‘You’re going to have to run up that field now’.
“They love singing so we put the stable rubbers on their heads so they looked like nuns.
“The people standing on the horses’ backs are Sam Twiston-Davies, Nicola Currie, Johnny Burke, Jamie Bargary and my daughter Saffie.
“We are using our gallops, so if we stand in the middle of a field making a silly film, singing like nuns, there is no harm done. It teaches the horses a bit of patience and to get used to a bit of bad singing.”
Though the training of his 77-strong string goes on, there is still plenty of time for more Osborne productions. “If this lockdown continues I am going to be making more films than EastEnders,” he suggests. “It’s not as if I am rushed off my feet
“I’m not sure this is going to be of any benefit to me in the long run but it’s keeping us amused. I work on the premise that if it amuses me, it might amuse someone else.”