How has your training routine been affected by Coronavirus?
We have stepped back our training regime slightly. The horses were quite well forward and so I have taken this opportunity to ‘fill them up’ again over the last couple of weeks and plan to start dialling things up again gradually from next week onwards. From a day to day routine point of view we have made some changes to try to keep the team (and therefore the NHS) as safe as possible. We have closed the staff canteen and are ensuring that the horses are exercised in well separated pairs on the Heath. This has taken a bit of organising and constant reminders to the team but I feel we are doing it well.
Realistically, when do you expect horse racing to return behind closed doors?
I believe the 1st of May to be a very realistic target. A month is a very long time away when you consider we have only been in lockdown for 10 days so far. When racing returns we will all need to make many compromises and work together to get the industry up and running again.
What are your hopes for the year?
This virus has shone a very different sort of light on 2020. At this stage, my greatest hope is that the industry survives it. I hope that I am right that 1.5.20 is a realistic start date and that following on from that that we can get as much of the program completed as possible. The thoroughbred industry is one of the largest industries in the UK. Thousands of people rely on it for their livelihoods and I hope that as many of those people survive as possible. On an equine front, I hope that Powerful Breeze recovers from her broken ribs to win a European Group One before heading to the Breeders Cup!
In the light of Coronavirus have you reduced your training fees?
We have been very fortunate throughout this crisis that we have been able to continue to train the horses. They are continuing to receive five star accommodation and treatment and they are being prepared to race throughout the 2020 season in very much the same way as they would always be. The difficulty with discounts is that, in general, you get what you pay for! I believe that there may be some industry wide help for owners and trainers who have kept horses in training further down the line but it is very hard for a trainer to make a significant cut to training fees and continue to do the job fully.
When racing returns all two-year-old races will be oversubscribed? And will they be even harder to win?
No. I don’t believe they will. The first few weeks may be very busy but things will soon level off. There are so many two year old races in the UK, I always feel that they are much easier to win than races for older horses.
If racing is still not back by June, could you run the Derby in September or would you just forget it for a year?
As I have said above I don’t believe that will happen and the second entries for The Derby are going ahead as normal on Tuesday. What may be difficult is getting the trials completed in time so the Derby may well be delayed a bit but my bet would be it will still run in June. Neither World War prevented the race being run and I don’t believe Coronavirus will either. The race may have a different complexion and date but I don’t think it can be forgotten for a year.
Have you got any exciting two-year olds for our members to keep an eye out for?
The best thing about the spring for a trainer is unearthing new talent. Since all my two year olds are unraced they are all exciting at this point! There are a few that are catching the eye right now though. We have a very nice colt by Showcasing (that is still looking for an owner) – he is strong, sharp and forward and I hope will be one of our first runners when the time comes. I also have a very nice colt who is appropriately named Lockdown who looks to go well and a lovely one for later on called Set Point.
Will there be any long-term effects on the racing industry?
Every industry in the country will have long term effects. I am sure that the 2021 foal crop will be reduced (which may be a good thing). Much will depend on how long the economy is allowed to stagnate. There may be many fewer owners in a position to own horses by the end of it.
Who has been the most supportive to your stable in the last month?
My staff have been exceptionally supportive. They have been very good at adjusting and all appear very committed to the cause. Fortunately they have all remained healthy.
When did you realise you wanted to become a trainer?
I fell in love with racing as a schoolboy and was never going to be a jockey so training made most sense. I started focusing on it when I was in my early 20s and got my license when I was 30.
How did you get your break?
The very first horse that I got as a trainer was a great success. She was called Making Eyes and she won 5 races including two listed races. I was very lucky to have her and so early in my career too.
Q. Dream alternate career?
A. Something in the Alps
Q. Which sport do you miss the most (other than racing)?
A. I wish I had more time to fish but I never seem to any more.
Q. How are you keeping fit?
A. My wife bought a Peloton at Christmas – it’s my new obsession!
Q. Career highlight?
A. Galileo Gold’s 2000 Guineas
Q. Career disappointment?
A. Wall Of Fire’s Melbourne Cup. He was joint 2nd favourite and finished 16th. We later discovered he had sustained an injury.
Q. Three words to describe you?
A. Ask my wife!
Q. Three things you’d like to work on?
A. I’d like to lose weight, train more horses and win more races.
Q. Derby or Arc?