24th June 2020
I am absolutely delighted to hear that Hamilton Park are leading the way and will be accommodating horses and stable staff on Saturday night for their meeting on Sunday. It actually has no effect on my stable as Hamilton is not an overnight stay for us (we generally stay over at tracks where the journey time is greater than 4 hours each way which means Ayr to the north and anything south of Leicester) but the absence of overnight accommodation has been the greatest hardship for stable staff since racing was resumed behind closed doors and I hope that other tracks will follow Hamilton’s example in the near future.
It has been interesting to note that the form of our horses does not appear to have suffered at all when travelling to far flung tracks but it has been very hard on the staff. Some did a 26 hour shift for one meeting at Goodwood.
We have been in the lucky position of being able to ferry some staff to or from racetracks in our aeroplane and Newmarket and Haydock went to considerable lengths to open their airstrips because we were doing that. It has meant that, for some of the longest journeys, we could allow some staff to travel to the races by plane and others to travel back, greatly reducing their overall time on duty. But the majority of our travelling staff have had to travel both ways with the horses and the hours they have been working is not sustainable in the long term.
I myself have been going racing a lot. I have attended 17 race meetings at 9 different tracks since 1st June and I have seen some quite different approaches to managing the day. I must say that, from a virus control point of view, I have seen nothing that could be considered remotely risky. Everyone has taken it very seriously and all workers, whether they are racecourse employees, BHA officials, or stable staff, have accepted the inconveniences and extra pressures. That said, I have seen quite a variation in the facilities and catering that has been provided for those attending, ranging from zero to to the first-class provisions at Ascot. ARC tracks, Jockey Club racecourses, Goodwood, Ayr and Hamilton have all provided a free packed lunch for everyone attending and some have added free hot drinks throughout the day but Ascot added a little touch of luxury that you might expect at the Royal meeting. It was much appreciated.