3 Results Found For: June 2020

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.

10th June 2020

Now that racing (but not as we know it) has recommenced I am bracing myself for the abusive text messages, e mails and, occasionally, phone calls. I used to think that I was one of the only ones receiving these but I now know that it goes with the job and most, if not all, trainers and jockeys are subjected to this.

On the other hand, I also get plenty of pleasant messages and there are more posts on social media praising our efforts than there are criticising us. Unfortunately, many of those who text or write to tell me what a  wonderful trainer I am spoil it by playing their hand and adding the request for ‘a horse to follow’ but one such text message this week made me smile. It read:

“Hi Mark, Just wanted to say wow what a start after horrible virus hope all your stable and staff ok everyone says you won’t reply but will try as love ya. Any horse to look out for over next few day your in amazing form? No’ worry’s if your understandably very busy but worth a try please stay safe and good luck 🙂 Louise x”

I then noticed that I had received a previous message, last July, from the same number. It read:

“Hi Mark, My 21st birthday today I clean out horses stables for a living. Your derby entry runs today at Epsom going for my biggest bet £20 nothing to you but awful lot to me is horse worth thumbs up no worry’s if your busy understand you are top guy and trainer. Take care. Amy x”

She/he must think I came up the Clyde on a water biscuit.


2nd June 2020

Oh, Sir Anthony, I so agree with what you said in the Racing Post today about making your own decisions and weighing the risks but be prepared for a possible backlash from Lee Mottershead and Alan Byrne. Mottersdhead, the Racing Post’s self appointed expert in virology, might accuse you of being arrogant, blinkered, misguided or even disaffected and Alan Byrne, their editor in chief and temporary resident epidemiologist, could remind you of how many people have died, and might still die – as if your views on horseracing mean that you don’t know or don’t care. He certainly might say that society must give you ‘permission’ to make a decision to go horseracing or even to have an opinion that there should be any horseracing at all. He might think your views are ill-judged or just ill-timed but, given that he chose to print them in his paper and he is not inclined to print views that he doesn’t share,  maybe he is climbing down from his high horse or maybe he had some other, more personal, agenda – or should I say gripe – when he made his little attack on myself and Ralph Beckett.

Today, I attended my first, and I dearly hope last, funeral during ‘lockdown’. My mother-in-law, Kathleen Ferguson’s death had nothing to do with Covid-19 but her last two months were sorely affected by it. Her 88-year-old husband, Duncan, didn’t see his wife for the last seven weeks of her life and he is struggling to make sense of that or the fact that there were only nine of us at her funeral.  I suspect he might share Sir Anthony McCoy’s view that, at his age,  he and his family can make their own decisions on the risks he should take.

It was, without doubt, the strangest funeral I have ever attended and it, along with Kathleen’s time in hospital and hospice, will be the most poignant memory of ‘lockdown’ and Covid – 19 for me. But, the fact that the hearse met us at her house and the neighbours stood out in the street to see her off was touching to say the least. That might be something to consider for what people are terming the ‘new normal’. Me, I’d just like a  return to the old normal as soon as possible.

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