Our star columnist returns with an update from Musley Bank as his team work under the new guidelines during the shutdown.
These are obviously strange times at any racing yard.
We’re used to take temperatures of horses at Musley Bank – now we’re checking every member of staff’s each morning with forehead thermometers. We’re being as careful as we can.
Staff wash their hands before arriving here and then we have two sanitizer units to use as soon as they arrive.
They’re taking all their racing tack home with them in cars and when they get here in the morning we have six different boards with the work schedule on so there’s no need for everyone to gather round in the tack room. They don’t need to be within ten metres of each other to find out who’s doing what and then when it comes to riding out we try not to get too close.
Otherwise we have to try and carry on as normal. Horses are athletes and need exercise. Sir Mo Farah never ballooned up to 20 stone before preparing for a major event and it’s the same with our string. The job is to keep them fit, happy and healthy.
On the Tuesday before the full lockdown we galloped 50 horses who were all ready to run in the days and weeks’ ahead. My job is now to tune them back a little, which is easily done. The problem is we don’t have any idea of when we’ll get back and when we’ll need to step them up again to get them ready to race.
It’s an impossible job to try and predict that but as soon as we know – or think we know – we can prepare accordingly.
I had a bunch of early two-year-olds who were ready to go and would have had a runner in all the juvenile races for the first three or four weeks of the season. The worry would be we might have missed the boat with some of them but we’ll sort it.
I wasn’t being clever when I made entries for Naas and the Curragh while they were still racing in Ireland. I’ve always have runners on Irish Lincolnshire day and did stick one of the two-year-olds in at Naas but it wasn’t to be.
We do have some orders for the breeze-up sales and they have been very kind to us for the last few years. Last season we got Summer Sands, Flaming Princess and Acomb winner Valdermoro from there. I don’t think anyone has bought more winners from these sales recently than we have but we don’t know what’s going to happen this time around.
There’s some talk of the sales taking place behind closed doors but we’ll have to see, it would certainly be different.
But my main – and overriding – concern right now is for my staff. There’s an anxiety among them – you can feel that – and one of the lads left the other day as he was worried about his partner who has some health issues. You completely understand – and respect - that.
Despite the circumstances they are working brilliantly as a team. We’ve had three glorious sunny days this week which helps, it might be different had it been -3 and raining, but everyone is in good heart and working well under the new guidelines.
We were already fairly isolated as a community here in Malton before but things are even tighter now. The government has made it very clear what people can and can’t do – and we’ve reiterated that message.
We have three shared houses with five members of staff living in each and they’ve been brilliant, self isolating in those for the last two weeks.
It’s a surreal situation. You stand on the gallops here and watch the horses canter past and it feels like business as usual. Clearly it isn’t.
Our thoughts are with everyone fighting this disease and thanks go out to those helping with the battle in the NHS and elsewhere.
With the continued support of the team here we’ll keep things ticking over at Musley Bank and be ready to go whenever we’re given the green light.