This is part of our interview series with people inside racing about the impact that the Covid19 pandemic has had on their personal circumstances and the effect both personally & Professionally within the racing industry.
Today we talk to trainer Martin Smith, who has a moderate string of horses and has been sharing gallop videos on Social media. Martin talks about the lockdown, social distancing & his thoughts on racing behind closed doors
How are you and the family coping with the Lockdown?
Anna and I are really enjoying the lockdown at home. As a sales director she usually does a lot of travelling so it’s nice to have her at home all the time. Our house has undergone a massive spring clean and we’re preparing the nursery for our baby who’s due in August.
When Boris announced the Lockdown, what were your first thoughts?
My first thought was “great!” It was the obvious thing to do at the time. Obviously it would affect my business but it’s more important to keep people safe. My grandparents have passed away very recently so I didn’t need reminding what it’s like to lose someone close to me and it was reassuring to see the government doing the right thing and making tough decisions.
How does the Social Distancing measures work within the Yard?
We have a small team so it’s not too difficult for everyone to stay 2m apart, we only allow 1 person in a horse’s stable at a time. There are hand sanitizers around the yard and our staff are supplied with gloves and masks which they are expected to wear.
Staff Welfare is vital during this Pandemic, how are they all coping & do you have anything in place for any Mental Health issues?
The support they get from Simon Bailey and Racing Welfare is outstanding and I talk to them every day about their personal lives so I can make sure they’re in a good mental space.
Apart from standard racing PPE, have you had to add anymore?
Yes it hasn’t been easy to get hold of extra gloves but we are well stocked now, we also have an anti-viral hand wash now which was a great find by my wife Anna.
With no racing at the moment, how are you coping financially? Is the expenditure out weighing the Income?
It’s definitely a struggle, some of my owners have been affected financially so naturally they want to keep their horses out of full training so it has a knock on affect on our business.
We don’t make a profit from training the horses, we only have a chance of making money through racing.
With prize money already being as bad as it is we have to rely on our commission when we sell a horse for a big profit. That’s why we focus on buying in young horses and selling them on if they do well on course.
In a sense we’re a bit like a football club that can’t afford to keep our best players but the revenue they bring in helps us grow.
Was any of the Government business measures helpful for you and have you had to Furlough any staff?
I haven’t had to furlough any staff yet because most of the horses are still in training and I haven’t had to rely on financial help from the government yet but that could still change.
What advice or help have the BHA & Trainers Association offered and have you taken it up?
The BHA and NTF have been very informative and are definitely looking after us as much as they can.
What happens to Owners Training Fee’s at the moment & with the visiting, how are you keeping them informed of their horses welfare?
I’m always in contact with my owners over the phone or by email. I often send them photos and videos of their horses in training so they can still see their progress.
The Martin Smith Racing Club is still very active and gaining new members, I regularly update our members with videos and we’re looking forward to welcoming them back to the yard as soon as we can.
For sole owners and shareholders in private partnerships we’re looking forward to the sales that are scheduled to resume in June and July.
The Cheltenham Festival has taken a beating in the Press, what was your view of it going ahead & How have the BHA handled the situation since?
The BHA followed the government guidelines at the time so I don’t think we can criticise them for that but I didn’t go and I’m glad I didn’t.
And finally….. If & When racing returns are you happy with running behind closed doors?
Yes, the people are a big part of racing and it won’t be the same but we have to think of our owners who are still paying their training fees and in a sense it probably won’t be much different than having a runner in the 9:30 at Kempton on a Wednesday night in January.
We would like to thank Martin for his time & wish Martin, Anna & bump, the team & the horses all the best for the future.
Interview – Rich Williams
Photos – File