Coronavirus is wreaking havoc, we have an unprecedented global emergency and strangely enough it is this that will help many people keep going. Just knowing we are not alone is strangely comforting and encouraging, training racehorses has always been very tough, running a racing yard is as isolating and highly pressurised as it gets so you might say we are well placed to deal with this but are we really?
Headlines recently in the Racing Post lead with one headline “Trainers warn six-week shutdown could mean some businesses will fail” and of that there is little doubt. Today’s Racing Post leads with the headline “Racing will not be beaten” but admits our industry is “beleaguered”.
As any hardened racing follower knows even pre Coronavirus, many trainers were already struggling to stay in business, competing with the bigger yards who are now simply ‘colossal’ in size, staffing issues, struggling with owners who don’t pay- it is a fact that this is the single biggest problem faced by all trainers, or at least it was until Coronavirus came into our lives. It really couldn’t have come at a worse time for many in racing.
Trainers now have to do all we can to keep the horses and staff looked after and ourselves virus free, the flat horses need ticking over quietly ready for increased work again in good time for a resumption in racing, problem is we have ‘no idea’ when that might be. But certainly not for the next couple of months. We are never an early yard anyway so in that respect our ‘May’ time horses could easily wait till June without any issues, but not knowing how much we dare do, and not do is the key question. If the delay stretches beyond June we can’t keep working horses and not running them or you leave the races, along with their ‘sparkle’ at home on the gallops. They become a spent force before they even start their campaign.
But one thing I do know, is that when this is over, the sun will shine again and life will go back to normal. For some however, there will be lasting changes to thier lives and people will have to adapt. Racing will adapt to, it always does.
In the meantime I am making plans. How to get the businesses into a ‘costs neutral’ position, how to retain the staff, making sure those living on site are safe, well, warm and fed, and preferably paid! How to keep employing those whose prospects of getting work elsewhere is limited or impossible? How best to utilize the spare time we suddenly have whilst staying safe and healthy? What jobs need doing and which jobs can we afford to do? And crucially, keeping our lovely owners happy and on side. Already a couple of owners have called to say they will continue to pay ‘as normal’ and to pledge their support for which we are all very grateful, this is a massive help, and I can only hope others will do the same. Horse welfare is another worry for all trainers and the BHA are particularly concerned that some owners will stop paying their bills and fulfilling their responsibilites and the knock on effect this will have.
The next few months are going to be testing to say the least and we will endeavour to keep you informed and kept up to date on what’s going on at Sun Hill. But please stay safe and stay away from crowds.