Welcome to Part Two of my new project. If you haven’t already pop over to this link to view Part One before reading Part Two!
I am going to jump straight into this part for you guys. I hope you enjoy!
As mentioned in part one, jockeys have been massively affected by the pandemic, I spoke with Grace Mcentee who told me how the cancellation of racing has affected her.
“When it was announced that racing was going to be put to a stop due to coronavirus and we were going into lockdown it really couldn’t have come at a worse time for me as I was battling it out for the Champion All Weather Apprentice title (I finished second) and I was getting plenty of outside rides/opportunities and was getting a nice amount of winners, so I was finally at the point that I had been working towards and who knows if racing had carried on, what I could have achieved. I was gutted about it but just pleased that my friends and family were all safe and healthy.”
She went on to tell me how lockdown has affected her…
“During lockdown it was hard to keep my weight down and fitness levels up with no target to when racing was going to resume but that was the struggle for most jockeys, so I just did what I could and made the most of the time off to try and improve anything that I wanted to.”
So how has Grace coped with the return of racing after so long away from the track?
“I’ve been back riding now just over 2 weeks and I’m pleased to say that I got a winner first week back of racing resuming for 5lb apprentices, so I was delighted but I just need to build contacts back up now to get back to where I was going before racing stopped and hopefully have a nice season ahead of me.”
If you have followed me for a little while you will know I got the opportunity to visit Grace and her dad Phil just before coronavirus really gripped the UK and whilst Grace was going into the final race of the All Weather Apprentice championship and they made me feel so welcome and I loved my time with them. I think Grace is a fantastic jockey and I wish more trainers would reach out and give her a chance to ride for them, hopefully in time, now racing is back up and running, that will come! Grace’s dad Phil has kindly donated a stable visit followed by 2 tickets to a local meeting to my raffle. If you want to enter my raffle all information and links will be at the bottom of this page.
Many of you may, or should know Charlie Poste, an ex jockey who know produces and breaks in horses as well as point to point. I spoke with him about how it has affected his business.
“Our business has been affected by the early shutdown of the point to point season. Therefore any owner, rider or horse we had in training were immediately taken out of training. It also meant we have been denied a lot of racing opportunities to run our unraced horses, hopefully they would have won or ran well enough to sell at the spring sales – which were also abandoned. As this is a major profit element of our business, it’s obviously been far from ideal.”
Charlie went on to tell me how he hopes to move forward.
“Moving forward, you would imagine once point to pointing resumed, the prices for winning horses will take a hit and we have to factor in that the young horses tend to make most profit when they win in the spring of their 4 year old year. So having that opportunity taken away, I would imagine, will undoubtedly have an affect on their potential profit if they win or run well in the Autumn. The other factor from this means that we haven’t turned over anywhere near as many of the existing stock as would normally be the case. So it will impact on how many horses we are able to purchase at the upcoming store horse sales, partly due to stabling space and of course, cash flow from having more horses than normal still on the books.”
Charlie also breaks in horses, so how has this been affected? Charlie went on to explain to me!
“The other side of our business which provides the bulk of the work we do through the summer months is breaking in store horses for the professional yards, alongside our own young horses. As there have been no store horse sales it’s meant numbers of horses in the yard have been greatly reduced. We would normally expect to have around 30-40 horses to break in, fairly constantly from May until August when our pointers come back into work. This year we have had probably between 10-20 over the same period.”
Charlie went on to explain to me a little bit about what we may see in the future.
“We are due to have a young horse sale next month and it will be very interesting to see what the prices are like and if they have been affected by the current situation, and if so, by how much. We will also see how many people are keen to buy and then if they buy, how many are still keen to send them to us to break in. The pointing season is due to start earlier this Autumn and this could prove to be a real blessing as it will at least offer us the chance to run our young horses and all being well, sell them at the sales at Cheltenham in November, which is normally off limits to us as British pointing hasn’t started until mid November in previous years.”
Charlie then summed up the situation as a whole.
“Others within racing have undoubtedly been worse hit than us, but we have definitely seen changes to our business over the last few months and like many others, hope things soon return to something like normality.”
I was lucky enough to interview Charlie just before Cheltenham and just before Coronavirus really took hold of the UK. I can honestly say he is one of the most knowledgable people I have ever met within racing. He knows so much about so many aspects of racing, so I was so glad I could get his viewpoint for this project. I know for a fact if I owned a race horse I would send it straight to Charlie, he knows what he’s doing and I would highly recommend any trainer or owner sending their horses his way. Charlie has also donated a prize to my raffle for the Stroke Association… 4 tickets to a meeting at Warwick races with a course walk with Charlie before racing begins. All information on how to enter will be at the end of this post!
As I mentioned in part 1, on course bookmakers have been affected majorly by the pandemic and are amongst the few who still cannot return to work. I spoke with Ben / Benthebookie on Twitter about how Coronavirus has had a massive affect with on course bookmakers.
“As a bookmaker it has been a total disaster to be honest. Our total revenue stream has been removed, but unlike the rest of the industry we still aren’t back to work.”
He went on to tell me a little more about how this could really really be bad for bookmakers…
“I’m in a fortunate position, we are a limited company so I’m furloughed but have still taken a big cut. A lot are sole traders and they are frankly in trouble and may not be able to come back from this. Racing will miss us if we go.”
In my opinion, I totally agree with Ben on that point. It will be devastating to the industry if a lot of on course bookmakers can’t afford to return to the track once the public do. I hope that the BHA can reach out to those worse affected and ensure that they will again return to the race course.
Another sector affected by the pandemic is of course owners, syndicates etc. I spoke with Megan O’Brien who is the racing manager for Titanium Racing who told me how she has coped with this pandemic as well as how she has managed to continue to run the syndicate.
“As a racing manager it was a worrying time as lockdown happened. Not only on how do you keep your members happy and included with no racing but also the horses. We stuck with it and kept all our horses in training in support of the yards. The trainers and staff really did an excellent job of keeping the horses on the go for as long as they did with effectively no initial end game.”
So how did Megan manage to include all of their members whilst racing was cancelled and now very limited? She explained it all to me.
“I do regular updated anyway, so little has changed in that regard. We provide members with free access to The Racing Manager which is an excellent tool whereby trainers can send updates such as videos and photos directly. Seeing the horses work was a great boost. Upon racing returning, it was always going to be tricky with the racing so competitive and difficult to get in. But I’ve held regular Zoom meetings so members can watch the racing together.”
Megan then told me a more positive note and what the future holds.
“It’s unprecedented times and no one could guarantee what would happen, I was pleasantly surprised at how much interest there was during the down time and we even gained a few new members. We’re looking forward to the day we are able to get back to the stables to see the horses and also get back on the race course.”
I have firsthand spoken with Megan a few times and I know how hard she works with the Titanium Racing team, so I am so happy to hear things have gone well for them throughout this tough period. If you’re looking to join a group, I highly recommend Titanium and Megan.
And with that, it is the end of part two. I want to thank Grace, Charlie, Ben and Megan for their time. I hope you enjoyed part two of this project.
Part three will be coming Saturday morning at 11am. Part three includes Johnson White (Philip Hobbs’ assistant), Debbie from Go Racing Green & more! You can now also subscribe to my blog so you receive an email whenever I post, if you’d like to do that scroll down on the side bar and you will see a Follow My Blog section. If you enter your email every time I post you will receive an email so you don’t miss a thing!
Thank you for reading, I will see you all on Saturday with Part three of this project.
Sidenote: My raffle to raise money for the Stroke Association is now LIVE. So you can pop over to my Twitter and view this tweet for all information: https://twitter.com/zoelouisesmithx/status/1277629857460113410?s=20 There are some fantastic prizes and it is for a fantastic cause in honour of the 10 year anniversary of my mom’s stroke. The Stroke Association help not only those directly affected by a stroke, but also their families. They helped my mom massively and I wanted to raise money for them so they can continue to help other people in need. I hope you can all join me in raising money for this incredible cause!