I am feeling a bit lost at the moment following the cancellation of all racing in this country until the end of April because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
One minute we were full on after Cheltenham with a double the following weekend, the horses were in top form and there was lots of planning for the final six weeks of the season with meetings such as Aintree, Ayr, Cheltenham, Perth and Sandown. Then the sky fell in.
It was probably the right call by the BHA to call a halt to racing given the very real threat to life. Whichever way you look at it the situation is scary not just for racing but for everyone with so much uncertainty about the future.
My immediate concern is for the welfare of our hard working staff, all 55 of them who make up Team Ditcheat. I’ve assured my owners that I’m not going to lay anyone off while we continue to look after upwards of 150 horses who will remain with us until they can go off on their summer break out to grass at the start of May.
One or two people have suggested we should be turning them out now but it is far too early to be doing that. They are not cars that can be switched off with the turn of a key.
The paddocks are very wet and need to be fertilised and rolled so that there is enough grass grown for the eight weeks’ the horse are out.
We will take our time to rough the horses off properly over a period of weeks as we do every year, so until the end of April we will be keeping things ticking over in a familiar routine with all the horses continuing to be exercised, fed and looked after.
When the time comes they can then go out to grass on their holidays and my view has always been that if you turn them out looking well then they stay looking well.
While the mood in these challenging times is downbeat at the moment it was good to see Topofthegame being ridden out every morning last week for light exercise after the leg injury in September that forced him to miss the rest of the season. He looks great and is such a big horse that the enforced break might have been a blessing in disguise.
Topofthegame will be doing routine roadwork for another three weeks and then start cantering for a fortnight. After that we will turn him out before bringing him back into training again early in July.
Over the past week we’ve also been doing lots of schooling with the young horses who are going hurdling next season which we will continue to do.
I’m trying to stay positive and have a team of twenty who would be suitable for summer jumping if it happens.