Trainer Nicky Richards hopeful horse racing will get back on track after pandemic

Horse racing, along with most industries, has been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The last meeting to take place in the country happened on March 17, when racing, along with all other sports, was forced to halt.

Royal Ascot has signalled a return to to the track behind closed doors at several larger racecourses, giving those who make a living from the sport some hope that things are starting to change.

This, however, does not include Carlisle, which is not expected to reopen before the Autumn.

The city's racecourse will lose some of its most famous races, including the historic Bell & Cumberland Plate Day which was due to run next Wednesday.

imply Ned and jockey Mark Walsh, with Trainer Nicky Richards, 2018. Credit: PA

Despite not being able to hit the track, the horses still needed daily care and attention.

British racehorse trainer, Nicky Richards, who is based at Greystoke in north Cumbria, is grateful that he has been able to stay up and running. He said: "I'm very lucky. I've got a great bunch of owners. They have all stood by me and they've been brilliant.

"Hopefully we'll get on and repay them. Having a winner again, that will be the most important thing for us because that is the business we're in you know."

Like any business continuing through the pandemic, social distancing and hand hygiene have to be obeyed at Nicky's yard, near Penrith.

Even in the close knit confines of a racing stables, people have faced very different challenges through lockdown.

Amateur jockey Josie Elliot is only just returning after being furloughed and is delighted to be back in the saddle.

She said: "The worst part was not being able to do anything at all. It was nice to spend time at home with my family though. Being back at work it is nice just to see the horses and crack on ready for next season."

Amateur jockey, Josie Elliot. Credit: ITV News

Stable lad Sam Fawcett rides out when he's not studying to become a Barrister. He has been dividing his time between caring for and riding the horses and online learning.

He said: "I'm at Uni over in Newcastle and at the end of March they turned everything online. So I came home and asked Nicky if I could ride out because I had a lot of spare time.

"I've been riding out in the mornings and doing Uni work in the afternoons. I just finished my exams last week. So I'll just be here until September when I go back."

Credit: ITV News

With many relying on the gig economy for income lockdown has been particularly tough.

A regular income from the stables has been vital for Susie Wastel when her casual work dried up. She said: "I used to do some bar work, in the springtime we had the lambing and I missed all that as well.

"It has been just one job and it has been difficult, obviously, but I have got a job and I'm very lucky that way."

Nicky's daughter Joanna works with him and is grateful to have such a glorious environment for her daughters.

She said: "We are very lucky where we are that we have this outdoor space. I can imagine how hard it must have been for some families that don't have that.

"We've got the horses to enjoy and the kids can have a run around and just get the fresh air that they need."

Credit: ITV News

Delight at the return of racing is one thing everyone is experiencing equally.

Nicky said: "This week we've got Royal Ascot on. I know with no crowds and everything, which is very strange, but at least we have racing. So let's try to get the wheels turning again."

There's no such thing as a sure thing in horse racing but it seems a safe bet that the industry is slowly but surely getting back on track.