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Robbie Power: How jockeys are staying cautious to keep racing show going in coronavirus crisis



All change: jockey Robbie Power after riding Wingin A Prayer to victory at Down Royal last Tuesday

All change: jockey Robbie Power after riding Wingin A Prayer to victory at Down Royal last Tuesday

Freddie Parkinson

All change: jockey Robbie Power after riding Wingin A Prayer to victory at Down Royal last Tuesday

Their cars may have parked side by side as they waited between races at Down Royal on Tuesday, but jockey Robbie Power decided to call Danny Mullins on the phone rather than take any unnecessary chances with social distancing.

It's a prime example of the precautions which those involved in Irish racing are taking around the coronavirus pandemic to ensure that action continues behind closed doors.

Power would normally car pool to the races with the likes of Barry Geraghty, Keith Donoghue and Mark 'Fish' Enright but he has been ploughing a lone furrow in more ways than one since returning from the Cheltenham Festival.

"Since I came back from Cheltenham, the only place I've been is in my own house and at the races. That's just doing my bit to keep myself as isolated as possible," said Power.

"I'd normally car pool but we're all going on our own now. I'll aim to be at the races 35 minutes before my first ride under the new protocols so you literally go into the weighing room, get changed, weigh out, go and ride in your first race.

"If I have a break between my races I'll come back in and weigh in but I'll be straight out to my own car and stay there until the next race is over, then go back in and weigh out for the next race. I'll spend a lot more time in my car than I will in the weighing room.

"These are the precautions and the measures that have to be taken to keep racing going. All the jockeys are aware of how serious the situation is so we're willing to keep racing as long as the government are happy for us to continue and keep the industry going."

The weighing room and the racecourse are "totally different" now with no catering, no television and no shower or sauna facilities available while the majority of trainers are opting to stay away with personnel reduced to the bare bones of what is required.

Power appreciates that racing's continuation amid the Covid-19 outbreak is on a "day-to-day basis" and is adamant that jockeys, trainers and stable staff will do anything to keep the ship afloat in choppy waters.

"When the government say no, we'll stop straight away and this is on a day-by-day basis so we could be stopped at any time. We know what we need to do to keep it going," the Meath rider said.

"We're all working hard to make sure that we do that, keep the show on the road for as long as possible.

"When it does stop, who knows when it will start up again."

Champion rider Paul Townend - fresh from being crowned leading jockey at Cheltenham and securing back-to-back Gold Cup triumphs aboard Al Boum Photo - agrees with Power's sentiments and doesn't believe that there is any danger in racing continuing.

"I have been chatting to some of the jockeys in the UK and they don't know what to do with themselves. Without racing a lot of them won't be making any income, it's tough on them," Townend said in his Ladbrokes blog.

"We are staying away from each other in the weigh room. We get changed and leave straight away. I don't think we are putting ourselves in any more danger racing behind closed doors than we are going about our day-to-day lives under the current circumstances."

As a leading trainer with two recent Cheltenham Festival successes, Henry de Bromhead was facing the possibility of laying off staff if racing had not received the green light but he knows that things are going to change drastically in the coming weeks and months.

Another economic downturn is expected with knock-on effects to every industry and the Waterford trainer is adhering to strict protocols in his Knockeen yard to do everything possible to fight the coronavirus.

"Everyone involved was keen to try and keep it going and do whatever we needed to make that a reality. Once we've put strict protocols in place and we're not putting anyone at risk, it's all good," De Bromhead said.

"It's such a big, rural employer and it's great that we can keep the show on the road. You would definitely have been heading the direction of having to let people go otherwise and everyone is trying to do their best to make sure that they are doing what they should be doing.

"You'd be concerned about what's coming down the line, I'd be a fool not to be. Everyone is in the same position, and I've no doubt that we'll all pull together when we do get through it. The most important thing is that we all stay safe and healthy."

Belfast Telegraph