Paul Nicholls: UK racing cancellation 'a nightmare' but safety comes first

Paul Nicholls
'Team Ditcheat' is the focus for Paul Nicholls now
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Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls reveals his anguish at the decision to cancel racing in the UK but says he is fully supportive of the move and will focus attention to looking after his staff at Ditcheat...

"With the jumps season over and meetings cancelled at least until the end of April my focus at the moment is the care and duty to look after all our 55 staff who have been working so hard through this wettest of winters."

It is fair to say my thoughts were unprintable when I heard that all racing in this country was cancelled until the end of April.

I didn't really see it coming. I'm positive by nature, always have been, but it is hard to see any positives in the current situation caused by the Coronavirus.

We are all in this together, big and small. It is a nightmare for all of us in our sport, a shocking blow for a huge industry, but it goes without saying that I fully support the suspension of racing if it means lives will be saved.

The shut down is arguably worse for flat trainers as it has happened on the eve of their new turf season. They must be totally frustrated while at least we have managed to get through all but the last six weeks of the campaign.

Looking after staff a priority

With the jumps season over and meetings cancelled at least until the end of April my focus at the moment is the care and duty to look after all our 55 staff who have been working so hard through this wettest of winters.

I often talk about 'Team Ditcheat' and together with my owners I have a responsibility to look after them all. That means I do not want to be laying anyone off because of the current crisis.

I had a chat with everyone yesterday, reinforcing the advice of the government about frequently washing their hands and the need for common sense to look after each other.

We will be ready whenever we resume

We had around 165 horses in work at the start of the week ahead of a busy period which included upcoming meetings at Aintree, Cheltenham, Ayr, Sandown and Punchestown.

Now that has all gone out of the window because of an unprecedented threat to life caused by the Coronavirus. No wonder I feel like throwing my programme book in the bin.

You can't suddenly stop exercising horses overnight, let them down and then turn them out as it is too wet and cold to be doing that at the moment.

So we will be keeping them ticking over with a view to turning them out to grass in the first week in May weather permitting. Then, hopefully, things will settle down over the summer and they can start coming back into training a week or 10 days earlier than usual at the start of July.

Meanwhile we will continue to school our youngsters ahead of next season. We also have around 20 horses who would be suitable for summer jumping if racing resumes but who knows when that will be?

One thing is for sure. We will be ready when it happens. Stay safe.

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