Italian Frankie Dettori has spoken of his anguish at the coronavirus situation back in his homeland.
With an elderly mother still in Italy, a country which has recorded more than 10,000 deaths from COVID-19, the former champion jockey has described his concern.
“She’s had pneumonia in the past so she has to be really careful, because if she takes to this virus she may not make it through, so I’m a bit concerned about her,” Dettori said on The Guest List, a BBC 5 Live Sports Special.
“Dad goes to Morocco in the winter, so he’s in lockdown – he’s 79. So I’ve got parents that have to be careful. It’s a worry for everyone, it’s touched everybody’s lives.”
Like so many others, all Dettori can do is keep in touch and watch events from afar.
“If you picture all those coffins in a field and imagine how big that field would be it’s heart-breaking,” he added.
“It seems endless, and every day we hope that you can read something better, but it doesn’t look like it’s letting up. Having friends and family in Italy is a concern.
“Luckily at the moment, touch wood, most of my family are fine – but it’s been three weeks, and they haven’t left the house. A lot of properties in Milan you live in are flats, and a lot of people are kind of confined in their own little prison.
“The mood of the people is good – but it’s getting a bit frustrating because it seems like every day it’s getting worse and worse. We haven’t seen it get any better. We are just praying day by day.”
Dettori, who has set up a Gofundme page to raise money for the Italian Red Cross, is still riding out in Newmarket but admits the prospect of a quick return to action in British racing seems a long way off.
“It’s quite difficult – the trainer has to shout at you, because we have to keep two metres away!” he said.
“The horses still have to go out, they still have to be exercised, they still have to be fed. But we’re taking precautions, we’re wearing gloves, we’re wearing masks. We want to try to beat this thing.
“At least I’m occupied in some way but it’s quite surreal, that on a beautiful spring morning you’re thinking ‘it’s looking great and the racing season’s going to start’ but we’re all kind of blocked.
“I’m doing plenty of walks round my field, I’ve got a gym but it’s very hard to get motivated when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“At the moment we’re still in a dark tunnel, we don’t know when we’re going to start. “