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Dan Skelton on life without horse racing

  • Racing in the UK has been suspended since March 18th
  • It is hoped some racing could return in May
  • Skelton hopes the "resumption of racing will be fair and equal"
cheltenham festival crowd
(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
Ladbrokes ambassador Dan Skelton has been talking about about life without horse racing, the challenges he faces, and has expressed his concerns for the racing industry.

Writing on his blog, Skelton said the pandemic "has affected the yard massively."

"It is unprecedented," he wrote. "You just don’t plan for anything like this and you don’t have an action plan. We know what to do if we get bad weather or equine flu after last year. We are able to deal with these things and there is a process in place but this is just totally unusual and worrying. Unfortunately, I know of two people who have died from Coronavirus so it is real and all we can do is look after each other and get through this as best we can and hope for as few casualties as possible.

"The staff have been brilliant. They understand the horses and the owners understand the necessity to look after them. I think this pandemic has shown just how strong we are. Unfortunately, we have had to use the furlough system. We need jobs to come back to and that is why the furlough system is there. It is there to protect jobs and to ensure we can get back to full productivity.

"I think generally we will survive this as an industry but there is no question that there will be casualties. They will certainly come in the form of trainers, owners, and even racecourses and jockeys. Jockeys are self-employed and will be looking for alternative work during this period of inactivity. If a few of them got a different job off the back of this through necessity, then they might not come back to the industry. The potential scope of ‘damage’ is unlimited and possibly landscape changing for our sport. I don’t know what the future is going to look like for our sport, but it is definitely going to be slightly diminished. We are no different to any other industry.

"During this pandemic, my typical day now is just management really and making sure we do the right thing for the horses. I try not to spend too much of my day thinking about when racing will resume. Realistically nobody knows if we will start racing again on May 1stand if we do, we don’t know what that will look like. The whole thing is up in the air. However, it pales into insignificance when you look at what’s going on in the real world every day. I am just staying at home and keeping busy.

"The biggest challenge professionally is getting racing on again. That will bring us some normality back. At the end of the day, we are creatures of habit and we are well out of sync right now. The biggest problem we all have is the lack of certainty. If we knew that this would be over on say June 15th, we would all look forward to that day but nobody knows when this will end. I think the not knowing is the hardest thing. All we hope is that we are not hit too hard by it. We have gone into survival mode."

It is still hoped that racing in some form could return as soon as May, although should that happen, restrictions will almost certainly be place for some time.

"I am sure the resumption of racing will be fair and equal, and everyone will be given equal opportunities," Skelton continued.

"There is a misconception that flat is just a summer game and jumps is a winter game. There is a lot of trainers who rely on income all year round and that’s their business model. The modern trainer and system is there for 12 months of the year. I can see that being an issue. The traditionalists are going to have to realise the cold facts; that a lot of trainers who started off in the last 10/15 years recognise the industry as a 12-month business. We have to stand together on this and I fear that we are in danger of divisions if we are not clear and conscious of the two facets of racing.

"On a less serious note, I have become very good at gardening and I am spending plenty of time at it.  Haven’t gone as far as painting and crocheting though! When this is all over, the economy will need a big boost and I think it will get one because everyone I know just wants to go out for a steak or curry. We just want to socialise. There is nothing quite like being together with people. I would love to be able to go and visits Grace’s mum and dad. Hopefully the lockdown is relaxed by Easter so we can do that.

"Cheltenham feels like a long time ago but upon reflection, I would say we had an ok festival. I was a bit disappointed that Allmankind ran a bit flat but as I said at the time, if he had been on his absolute A game, Goshen was going to be a very impressive winner.

"The rest of my runners all ran well. I don’t think any of them underperformed as such and it is just a shame we didn’t land a winner or two. It is always so competitive there as everybody knows. In hindsight, I am absolutely amazed the festival was even on but we will just look forward to next year’s meeting now."

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