The news we've all been waiting for came this week as racing in the UK got the go ahead to resume after the coronavirus outbreak. Things had been looking good for the June 1st target but an increase in the death rate in the days before could have brought everything to a halt. Thankfully it looks like the virus is not spreading as much as it was so we can get back some forms of business to get the economy going again, although there will be strict guidelines in place.
The BHA published a 33-page booklet with all the regulations that have to be followed when going racing now and it won't be a place for fun and a good time as the new rules mean that interaction with anyone is kept to a minimum and you are only at the races to get your horse to run. Hopefully it won't be too long before these can be relaxed and some owners can start attending too to provide a bit of atmosphere. Luckily all the action will be on TV so won't miss a thing from home.
With lockdown gradually easing, builders have been getting back to work and that meant our driveway could get the resurfacing it has long needed. The boys from Welham Surfacing did a fantastic job and the new drive is smooth enough to play bowls on! It does mean you drive a bit too fast down there so please remember that there are horses about when you do visit us and keep slow.
As expected, there have been loads of entries in all the races since racing started again and the first of mine on Tuesday got balloted out. Oud Metha Bridge and Approve The Dream could have both run at Yarmouth on Wednesday however the firm ground would have probably injured them. The one horse who wouldn't have minded it, Alibaba, got balloted out of his race by one! It is frustrating but things should calm down a bit after a week or two. We could also do with some rain as many of the turf tracks are very firm meaning that the all-weather fixtures are getting more entries.
It looks like our first runners will be at Newmarket on Friday as both Gas Monkey and Divine Queen should get a run.
Gas Monkey had a great year in 2019 with four wins but his rating went up 24lbs as a result so life might be a bit tough for him now. He has a good record when running after a break and seems pretty fit so we will have a better idea if he is up to this class of race once he has run in it.
Divine Queen will be having her first run for us since we bought her at the end of last summer. We gave her a break over the winter as she was very weak and had plenty of growing still to do and I'm pleased to say that she looks much stronger now. She was a bit slow to come to hand in the spring so the delay to racing has done her no harm. Novice races aren't going to be easy right now as all the big yards have some talented horses to get on the track but it will be some more experience for her and a building block towards the rest of the season.
The entries aren't out yet but hopefully one of the three horses I'm entering at Lingfield on Sunday can get a run.
Alibaba showed promise last year and looks well handicapped for this season. He hasn't grown a lot over the winter but looks well and has a great attitude. I think he will get 1m2f in time but we will know more after this run.
Likewise, Valletta Sunset should stay that far too but he is only just starting off his career after a forgettable run last season when he was very colty and never had his mind on the job. He is a professional now and that should show on the track but, like Divine Queen, novice races won't be easy contests.
The third entry will be Wilson. He has enjoyed himself recently by leading the two-year olds in their work and it seems to have perked him up whilst keeping him fit. He has won at the track before but his downfall is starting slowly so I'm hoping the break has freshened him up enough to get over that problem.
I hope you've enjoyed the increased video content we have been putting out over the lockdown period and the team had one last hurrah before the serious work begins again next week by competing in a 'Lockdown Olympics'. The events were all yard-based and catered for all athletic abilities which produced a very competitive and fun few days.
Things are starting to come together now in the horseracing world as plans are now firmly in place for the return of UK horseracing on Monday 1st June. Going racing won't be much fun under the new protocols but at least the show will be back on the road and the horses can get racing again.
We will have a couple of entries for the first week back but getting a run will be difficult as there is likely to be 100s of entries in each race and only 12 will be allowed to run.
If we do get to go, some of the new measures at the races include: body temperature checks on arrival, social distancing at all times as well wearing face masks, no canteen or bars for food or drink (I'll have to take my own bottle of wine!) and only one member of stable staff is allowed to go per horse. They all sound very sensible and this has to be done so we are seen to be doing the right thing but I'll be hoping the 'normal' days are back soon so we can all enjoy the races again.
The bunch of horses who could run straight away are nearly fully fit now and they continued their preparation with a gallop on the Cambridge Road this weekend.