Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has backed the decision of the British Horseracing Authority to race behind closed doors from Tuesday due to the coronavirus outbreak.
A week on from the start of the Cheltenham Festival, racing will take place at Wetherby and Taunton without crowds.
Following advice from Scottish Government, Kelso’s meeting on Monday was already staged behind closed doors and early on Monday afternoon a statement was released with the expected news that all British racecourses would follow suit, initially until the end of March.
And given the work which goes on behind the scenes, Nicholls feels the longer racing can go on the better – rather than go into a total shutdown, as has been announced in France.
“It’s nice we can carry on in some way,” said Nicholls.
“The horses have still got to be exercised and trained and fed and looked after whether they race or not, so if we can carry on without doing any harm to anyone it’s a good thing.
“All the work behind the scenes still has to happen whether we race or not, you can’t just leave the horses in their boxes and turn them out. They still have to be trained, fed and looked after and while we are doing that we obviously want to run if it’s possible to do it.
“Whatever we do in everyday life there is a risk at the moment, we’ve just got to be vigilant and use common sense. I’m sure they are doing the right thing.”
Champion jockey Richard Johnson echoed those sentiments and after riding Wayfinder to victory at Hereford he told Sky Sports Racing: “We’re all keen to keep going as long as it’s the right thing to do.
“We’re going behind closed doors, so we’ll see how it goes.
“We’ll keep taking advice from people who know about these things and take it from there.
“All the horses are in training and going so if we’re able to carry on racing that would be fantastic, but only as long as it fits in with everybody else.”
Emma Lavelle, president of the National Trainers Federation, is another keen to race if at all possible.
She said: “I think we all want to carry on racing if possible. If it means fewer going to the races and we can manage the situation, so long as the Government directives agree we can continue then I think that is absolutely the right thing to do.
“In the current climate and with what’s happening both here and across the rest of Europe, it obviously makes sense that we should be taking that approach and keeping everybody safe.
“All we can do is look after our staff and look after our horses. The horses still need to be exercised, obviously, and looking after our staff and our horses is the main priority.
“It’s a positive thing for racing to be able to continue, but limiting any risk by reducing by far the number of people that are there.
“It’s extraordinary times and a time when everything is evolving at speed and I think we have to do the same. Although it’s going to be different and in some cases it might not be that straightforward, if that’s what we’ve got to do to allow racing to continue then that’s what we have to do.
“If staff from one yard have to help staff from another, because everybody has got less people there, then so be it.
“The great thing about racing is it’s such a community, I think people will always want to help each other to try to keep it going for as long and as successfully as we can.
“We had a good chat with all our staff this morning. We have hand sanitisers all over the place and try to make sure everyone is washing their hands. Even sitting at breakfast we’re keeping people a little bit further away from each other.
“If anybody doesn’t feel well we can self-isolate as quickly as possible. At the moment everybody seems absolutely fine. I think everyone is in the same position of trying to look after themselves and each other and keep the show on the road.”
However, Lavelle said she does fear racing being cancelled entirely.
She added: “The impact on us and other businesses is going to be big, I’m sure.
“I suppose as a predominantly National Hunt trainer, a lot of our horses are finishing up now anyway, or they will be in the next few weeks. They’ll be heading out to the field to have their summer holiday, so that puts less pressure on our staff.
“Our business is a different business to the Flat trainers’ businesses, who are just going into their season now.
“It’s massively concerning, but I think all we can do is put in sensible measures to try to keep everybody safe and at the same time maintaining the welfare of our horses, which is something that has to happen.
“It’s not like some of the businesses in London where you can work remotely. We’ve still got to be able to feed them, ride them and keep them going.”