Champion all-weather rider Ben Curtis has admitted his disappointment at the continued delay to the resumption of racing in Britain – but emphasised his determination to be ready to go if the go-ahead is given for June 1.
Hopes of a restart this month were dashed on Monday following news from the Government that there would be no professional sport, even behind closed doors, in England until at least that date.
Curtis, who amassed 101 victories as the leading rider during the winter season before the campaign was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, told Sky Sports Racing: “I think disappointed was the first response to it.
“I was hoping for a resumption sometime this month, but the Government has obviously set out its plan on when sports behind closed doors can resume so that’s left us in the situation we’re in at the moment.
“I think a lot of people in the sport were hoping we might get going this month, it was something a lot of people saw was feasible to do – I think we were hoping racing might start before other sports, but it seems we’ve all been thrown in together with that start date.
“It’s disappointing, we were hoping for better, it’s hard with racing and horses, you can’t just turn them on and off – you can’t put them in the garage and lock the door, once you’ve got the engine started you’ve got to keep going.
“So it’s tough, but at least we have a date now. It’s not a firm date, but hopefully it will be firmed up very soon. We have a date to aim at, we’re all in the same boat, so roll on June 1.”
He went on: “When the programme resumes and racing resumes it will be fairly full on and some of the bigger Pattern races will be coming up thick and fast, so trying to prep horses for those and not knowing exactly when they are is a tough situation for trainers to be in.
“Likewise for jockeys, we have to get our weight right and make sure we are at peak fitness for when we get back. Owners as well, they are paying bills every month and they’ll be able to pay their bills knowing they are aiming for something.
“Having a firm date would be very helpful and hopefully it’s something the people who are leading the charge for racing’s resumption are working on now to put into place.”
Professional Jockeys Association chief executive Paul Struthers stressed at the weekend the weighing room would look “very, very different” for jockeys when racing does start again, including saunas and showers being out of use due to their ability to produce an aerosol effect.
Curtis said: “I’ve spoken to a few people involved in the resumption. Paul Struthers came on television the other day and he was very good in his interview. He made a lot of sense and what he said about things being very different when we do get back to the weighing room is true, it’s not going to be like it was.
“All the jockeys will take it very seriously and make sure all the precautions and protocols are adhered to. Like I said, it will look very different, but I know for one I’ll be happy to get back in the weighing room and back doing what I love.”
In the meantime, Curtis has been finding some innovative ways to keep busy during this extended time off, as he explained.
He said: “There’s been silver linings in some ways, obviously I’ve spent a lot more time with my family, which is brilliant. My little lad is two and he’s keeping us highly entertained.
“I’ve built a gym in the house and I’ve built a vegetable patch, which is keeping me very busy as I’m not much of a gardener, so that’s something new. Plenty of cooking and all in all trying to keep active and positive, which I think is very important in these times.
“I think it’s about keeping the head right and once the head is right you can keep the body right and keep in some way ready to go for whenever the curtain does raise.”