Paul Mulrennan hoping racing pulls together during suspension

Jockey anticipating a tough and “scary” few weeks.

  • Wednesday 18 March
  • News
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Northern-based jockey Paul Mulrennan admits racing is going through a “scary” period during its suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the Group One-winning rider hopes a united approach can help navigate what promises to be a tough and anxious time for all involved in the sport.

Mulrenann said: “It’s tough going for everyone, not just the racing industry – it’s a big shock. You don’t know what is around the corner – it’s quite scary really.

“Everybody will be affected. We’re all washing our hands and keeping as clean as we can, but we’ll just have to work hard, get through it and try to carry on.

“The scary thing is that we are all in the unknown. We’re hoping we’ll be back in six weeks, but that’s not confirmed. We don’t know how long we’ll be out. We just have to go about our business.

“At this time of year, (normally) you’d be getting horses ready, a lot of studs preparing for the breeze-ups, so it will be very tough for them.

“One thing racing does well is look after our own – we have to look after everybody and help each other.”

Fellow jockey Andrew Mullen told Sky Sports Racing: “We got an email from the BHA just before it was announced, and I was a bit shocked by it. Everyone is in the same boat, and we’re just going to have to get stuck in. We’ll just have to keep our heads down and get through it.

“You have your regular yards you ride work for, but what do you do? Keep them in a normal routine or back off them because we’ll be six weeks behind at least when racing starts. We’ll just muddle our way through.

“Everybody is worried about what is going to happen, but you just have to keep going. Of course people are worried, but we’re only in the early stages – in another week or 10 days people might have found another routine.”

However Christian Leech, assistant trainer to his wife, Sophie, feels the plug was pulled on racing too soon.

“The shock has kind of subsided into a bit of anger over the last 24 hours,” he said.

“In responding to some of (BHA chief executive) Nick Rust’s points on why we couldn’t carry on, it seems a very odd situation to have gone from racing in front of 70,000 people at Cheltenham on Friday to still having attendances and racing on Monday, to then being behind closed doors and now nothing at all.

“It just seems to me to be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction really.

“Obviously this is an incredibly serious and worrying time for so many people, but I think we probably made this decision far too quickly.

“In terms of the points Mr Rust came up with as to why racing had to be halted, we just really don’t get them. The first one he mentioned was social distancing – well, it’s behind closed doors, so there is no social interaction – certainly in terms of racegoers.

“Unnecessary travel was another thing he mentioned, but people still have to get to work – we’ve seen pictures of thousands of people in Tubes around the country this morning.

“Also (there was) stress on emergency services – well, at the moment thankfully, there isn’t stress on emergency services. It’s just hard to see the rationale behind why we’ve had such a dramatic change in the direction from the governing authority.”

Leech feels racing is missing an opportunity at a time when all other major sports have been postponed.

“This may well have to be for a very prolonged period. We’re not actually at the stage, I think, yet whereby we did have to stop,” he said.

“Clearly that may happen – and who knows how long that’s going to carry on for? But I think we could have carried on for quite some time, and I think racing has missed a real opportunity – because it could have been unique, the only sport people could have been able to bet on for the time being.

“I think this is too early – I think we could have carried on for a while.

“Clearly, there might come a point when it just would have been impossible to carry on – but I don’t think we’re at that point yet.”

Leech and his wife operate on a small scale, and he is concerned the repercussions could be huge for yards like theirs.

“We’re looking at something clearly we’ve never faced before,” he said.

“Our whole raison d’etre, with the number of horses we have and the owners we have, is constantly to try to get a return for them.

“They are pretty difficult conversations, to try to encourage them to have horses in training for the next six weeks with absolutely no chance of return.

“One of our biggest owners rang straightaway yesterday afternoon, saying he wants the horses out of training immediately – with no prospect of racing in the imminent future.

“We’re trying as far as possible to encourage owners to keep going on the basis we might be back at the end of April.

“It’s not going to be sustainable as a business for us to carry on for any period of time, with the uncertainty.

“(In the racing industry) we’re losing millions of pounds of revenue each day that we don’t have racing – that we could have stored, in the knowledge that we don’t know when we will get going again.

“In our view, racing could have gone ahead – and it’s just extreme frustration.”

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