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Royal Ascot-winning trainer with Newmarket-based horses taking stock in wake of the coronavirus pandemic




Following the government’s recent decision to lengthen the United Kingdom’s lockdown until at least May 7, the British Horseracing Authority reacted by extending their suspension of the sport, with no return date given.

That served to add to an already large amount of worry and uncertainty for trainers and jockeys, but also for owners, who are currently getting no return for their money.

Speaking to the Journal, a Royal Ascot-winning owner with a large string of horses currently being trained in Newmarket admitted the coronavirus pandemic had left them to seriously consider to what extent they wanted to remain involved in the industry.

An owner with Newmarket horses is taking stock. Picture: Mark Westley
An owner with Newmarket horses is taking stock. Picture: Mark Westley

“Some people I am sure will have no sympathy for owners - especially with what the world is facing right now,” said the owner, who wished to remain anonymous.

“I fully appreciate the horrors a lot of people are facing, and the way so many are heroically helping is incredible.

“At the same time, however it has meant that I, along with many others I am sure, have been taking stock and trying to look at what the future holds.

Racing is currently suspended, with no return date in place. Picture: Mark Westley
Racing is currently suspended, with no return date in place. Picture: Mark Westley

“Owners are currently spending a lot of money for their horses to do nothing. When I look at the bills coming in, it gets you thinking about things.

“To be honest, I am a bit worried for racing because none of it works without owners.

“I ask myself: would I be more relaxed if I didn’t own racehorses? Yes, because the outgoings would be gone.

“Many times in the last few weeks I have thought to myself, what am I doing? It is a strange and difficult time ​and puts so many things into perspective.”

“Maybe I don’t want that many horses any more because it’s costly, but then also what will the sales market be like? It is all very uncertain.”

There have been widespread suggestions that racing will attempt to resume at some stage next month, with regionalised meetings behind closed doors at venues such as Newmarket, Lingfield and Newcastle said to be at the forefront of the plans.

It is also believed that any races will initially be capped to 12 runners and only senior jockeys in the saddle – leaving the owner well aware that things will remain far removed from normality for some time.

“Any sort of racing is obviously good for the sport, but not many horses will be able to get into these races,” they added.

“Everyone will be so keen to get a run, that some horses will be lucky to actually get in any races at all.”

“Like everyone, we missed out on prize money during the back end of the All-Weather season and that is another concern – prize money.

“It is not great in the UK at the best of times, so even if racing does come back and you are lucky enough to have a winner or two, how much is it actually going to be worth?

​“This could prove to be a watershed moment for all parts of racing and the impact could be far reaching and lead to a very different industry going forward.”