Mon, 27 Apr 2020
KINGSCLERE trainer Andrew Balding remains optimistic that horseracing can resume once lockdown has been lifted in England.
The British Horseracing Authority had announced a suspension of racing in Britain until April 30, but this has now been extended indefinitely.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the jumps season was cut short and it has also affected the start of the Flat season, which was due to begin a few weeks ago.
Balding said: “The only significant impact it has had is that the horses haven’t been able to run, which means there has been a loss of any potential prize money.
“Usually for us, April is one of the quietest months of the Flat season, so it’s not disastrous at the moment.”
It’s unclear as to when racing will resume, but Balding is aware that changes will need to be made for the remainder of the season.
He said: “We have seen racing is going to be suspended for a long period and if that’s the case, then it will have ramifications for obvious reasons.
“There would no point in owners keeping their horses in training if that was the case, but I am fairly optimistic that we’ll get going at the end of lockdown and we can build from there.
“There’s obviously going to be a change to the structure of the programme which will be a disruption, but not catastrophic if they can get racing going again.”
The BHA have also said that racing with crowds will not be possible until June at the earliest, but racing behind closed doors could be an option.
Balding said: “Racing behind closed doors isn’t going to be an issue, but it will have an impact on the racecourses and I am not sure how it will affect their financial income.
“I am hoping we can get some form of racing on for the rest of the industry as soon as we can.
“The fact that Ascot have said they’re willing to race behind closed doors does give us a glimmer of hope that those races will take place.
“It gives the better horses a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel in the sense that there is something to aim for.”
The idea of racing behind closed doors is something that Balding believes can work for the industry.
He said: “I think it has proved in other countries that it can be done while still complying with social distancing guidelines.
“They’re doing it successfully in Australia and Hong Kong, but the concern is that it’s a high-risk sport and if the NHS is under pressure, you might run the risk of adding to that.
“If suddenly they let racing go ahead at Ascot and the local hospitals are under pressure, then racing won’t take place.
“It’s something they’ve got to play game-by-game, but that is the main concern.”
To stop any potential spread of the virus, the trainer has introduced measures around his Park House stables to help when day-to-day roles are completed.
He said: “Everyone’s temperatures are taken when they arrive so we can monitor them and we have told people to self-isolate if they’re showing any symptoms.
“We’re social distancing and it’s easy for us because it’s a big yard and we’re well spread out, but we have to make sure we’re disinfecting equipment when necessary.
“It’s impossible to eliminate the total any risk of spreading, but we’re doing everything we possibly can with the system and the health and safety of our staff is the forefront of procedures,” he added.