Fri, 06 Nov 2020
Nicky Henderson was a relieved man after racing got the go-ahead to continue during the second national lockdown.
The Seven Barrows trainer said it would have been ‘catastrophic’ if Government restrictions had meant that the sport had to take a month-long hiatus because of the coronavirus.
Henderson said: “I hope that the lockdown ends in December and the owners at least can return.
“It was essential that racing continues – if it had had to stop it would have been catastrophic for the horses and for the whole industry.
“It has not been the easiest year to say the least.
“We got through Cheltenham and then had to shut down and it was a pity we did not get the Grand National, but everyone is in the same boat and it has affected racing enormously.
“In fact, there’s not one person in the whole country who has not been affected by this.”
Henderson, who has been British jump racing Champion Trainer six times, added: “We are lucky because we can continue to race and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) have done well.
“But now we are back to the original system when owners cannot attend, which is sad because they are the backbone of the sport.
“It has been a difficult time for racecourses because they have had no paying customer and it is very, very tough, but the whole country is in the same situation – no one is having an easy time and we all have to make the best of it.
“But we can still race and that is vital.”
Henderson also revealed that he had tested positive for coronavirus earlier in the year.
He said: “We have our own system at Seven Barrows where we are locked in, rather than locked down because 70 per cent of the people who work here live on site.
“We have had to make a lot of changes to observe the restrictions and it has gone incredibly well.
“We had a testing team come down here earlier in the year and they tested everyone – out of the 60 people tested, I was the only one to have a positive result.
“I had a cough for three or four weeks after Cheltenham, but I was lucky it was not worse.”
Henderson is now concentrating on the new jumps season,
He said: “We are ready to go and the wraps are coming off slowly.
“We have a great team at Seven Barrows and everyone is doing their best.
“We must get the job done and keep the show on the road.”
Henderson also said that it was strange to have racing behind closed doors.
He said: “I suppose we have got used to having no spectators.
“I went to the first day of Royal Ascot and there were only four people in the stands – it was eerie.
“All the races are televised and that is good – all we can do is obey the rules and hope it all dies down in the near future.”
Seven Barrows will again be one of the most powerful forces in jump racing this season, with a host of stars such as Altior, Buveur D’Air, Beware the Bear and Epatante.
And Henderson’s horses were out in force yesterday as Newbury hosted its first jumps meeting of the season.
Henderson said: “We have seven runners, so it will be a busy day.”
Riders and horses have been busy on the gallops preparing for the new campaign.
And Henderson is hoping that racing can provide a chink of light to people during these dark times.