Jumps trainer Kim Bailey: why racing needs to row together in the right direction *H&H Plus*

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  • Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer Kim Bailey reflects on why it’s important to remain positive – even when you find yourself training just two horses instead of the normal 70...

    It is hard to believe what we are all going through at the moment, with all sport cancelled for the foreseeable future – although there is talk of Flat racing starting on 15 May behind closed doors. There has never been a time in my training career when it is so important to remain positive and hopeful for the future of both my business and the sport.

    I am currently training two horses instead of 70, which is not an ideal situation for any business model.

    Normally, the majority of my horses – bar those who are likely to be running during the summer – go out for their holidays in early May and return to training in the first week of July. Seven weeks is certainly long enough for most horses to recoup their energy for the season ahead.

    This time, however, my yard has been more or less empty since early April. Yes, there is plenty to do, like power washing the stables, generally cleaning up and painting, but after three weeks most of that has been done. It is usually time for my staff to have their summer holidays, but sadly not many of them have been able to leave the staff hostel.

    On a positive note, it has been great to see local communities rallying round and helping each other. Racing is very good in terms of this, with organisations such as Racing Welfare, the Injured Jockeys Fund and the Professional Jockeys Association all being very supportive during these tough times.

    All equestrian disciplines are in the same boat but racing is one sport that certainly needs to be rowing in the right direction together as a sport.

    It is perhaps fitting that the British Horseracing Authority chair is Annamarie Phelps, who was vice-chair of the British Olympic Association and also a former Olympic rower. She has a great amount to deal with at the moment and it is vital that she ensures racing is rowing this torrid journey together.

    Look on the bright side

    The NHS has, and always will, played a huge part in all of our lives. Riders often face injuries and the NHS and its services are sadly needed all too often, so now is not the time to stretch them further.

    Jump racing is luckier than some other disciplines as our season officially would have finished two weeks ago at Sandown Park, so at least we have had a fair crack of the whip. But Flat racing, eventing, showjumping, polo and many others are now on hold, when they should be entering an exciting new season.

    The knock-on effect carries on through the summer months, with county and agricultural shows, eventing venues and even village fetes all missing out. The loss of financial revenue does not bear thinking about.

    Lockdown for most of us in the horse industry has been far more bearable than for those living in towns, especially flats – we can at least escape to do something we love and be outdoors. Social media has also managed to keep many people smiling and the #doitforDan raw egg challenge went viral in the racing world.

    The trend was started to raise vital funds for treatment for an eight-month-old baby called Dan from Ireland, who has been diagnosed with a rare genetic neuromuscular disease. The challenge sees nominees
    crack open a fresh raw egg on camera, place it in a cup and then drink it.

    On another note, my wife, Clare, broke her neck six months ago while taking part in a charity fun ride. Clare is an experienced rider and has evented and hunted for most of her life, so to be incarcerated in a neck brace for all these months has not been ideal. But like all riding folk, she has been stoic and brave.

    She has now experienced the loss of both taste and smell, which is a common minor symptom of the coronavirus. Now that I am living with somebody who loves cooking but with no taste, I have never eaten so much spicy and hot food, plus the wild garlic picked locally has been put into every dish.

    However, we have to look on the bright side because we are in a far stronger position than so many businesses. Our world is changing but we must stay safe and keep strong.

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