Skelton aware of challenges ahead for racing industry

‘You just don’t plan for anything like this’.

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Dan Skelton is in no doubt the racing industry will be “slightly diminished” when it eventually returns to full action.

The Flat calendar is currently suspended until at least May 1, while the jumps division will not return before July 1, as the world battles against the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Cheltenham Festival-winning handler is confident the industry will survive, he acknowledges this challenging period could see “unlimited” damage to the sport.

He told his Ladbrokes blog: “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.”

Skelton has also had to furlough some of his team, with the summer jumps campaign on hold.

He said: “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.

“This pandemic has affected the yard massively. It is unprecedented. 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.”

Skelton believes the “biggest problem we all have is the lack of certainty”, but he is sure both the Flat and jumps communities will be given a level playing field when they eventually return.

He added: “I am sure the resumption of racing will be fair and equal, and everyone will be given equal opportunities.

“There is a misconception that Flat is just a summer game and jumps is a winter game. There are 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.”

Skelton aware of challenges ahead for racing industry
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