Everyone’s been affected but we’ve had a fairly stable time

Farmer and racehorse trainer Stuart Coltherd is looking forward to a July return to racing action and admits luck has probably been with him during the long weeks of lockdown.

Thursday, 25th June 2020, 4:05 pm
Stuart Coltherd, left, with son Sam, one of the regular jockeys at Clarilawmuir (library image)

The family-run operation at Clarilawmuir, near Selkirk, is looking forward to having entrants in the July 22 closed-doors jump race meeting at Perth, while Scotland’s flat racing events have already resumed, also without spectators.

While the threat and the effects of COVID-19 were appreciated, there was still some dismay in racing circles when the lockdown occurred in March. There had been a lot of local interest in, for example, the finals of the Northern Lights series.

“It was a big blow early on, with a lot of horses lined up to run in spring and three or four runners due at the Northern Llights,” admitted Stuart. “We were geared up for these big races and the lockdown happened. But that’s life – it has been the same for everybody. It’s been a bit of a blow but, if you have animals, you still have to feed them and look after them.”

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Stuart reckoned he and his colleagues were fortunate that a busy time with lambing and calfing on the farm maybe took their minds off the missed races a bit. Some staff were furloughed, he said, and some part-timers finished for the summer, while full-time staff kept a few of the younger horses ticking over.

“We were maybe a wee bit lucky with the weather, because it had not rained for that much of the spring,” he reflected. “We might not have had that many runners anyway, because the ground was that hard, so we maybe didn’t lose as much racing as we thought we might.

“It is strange, though – it’s summer time and nothing is happening.”

Social distancing was slightly less of an issue with so many family employees at the farm and the stables, while a lot of the work involved forms of self-isolation, said Stuart.

“It’s like everything – you just have to work round about it and get to the end result again. Ours is the first sport that’s got going again and it seems to be working, to be fair. At least we are getting horses out and about again and we’ll definitely have horses for the beginning of July.”

Stuart reckoned it had probably been more difficult for his roster of jockeys to stay motivated, watch their weight and keep their fitness levels up. “It’s probably not been that easy for them, although, at the end of the day, they are professional athletes and it is their livelihood, so they have to just knuckle down and get fitness up to the proper level.”

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