The British Horseracing Authority is firming up plans which work around a return to action on June 1. The date has not yet been confirmed by the UK government but certainly signs are increasingly positive.
If that’s the case, it will end the better part of three months without racing but, through that period of inactivity on the track, the industry has remained busy in the background. UK-based jockey Martin Harley is amongst those riders finding more than one way to keep himself busy through these uncertain times.
“I’m riding out at John Gosden’s, and that keeps me going until midday,” said the Donegal native. “And an uncle and I have a little bit of a business going - a shop in a village outside Newmarket – and that’s also keeping me busy, and it’s going good.”
After a number of successful seasons following on from being crowned champion apprentice in 2011, Harley took a break from the UK scene for much of 2019, choosing to spend time in Hong Kong and, towards the end of the year, in Australia.
The highlight of his successful stint Down Under was his win a valuable listed race at Flemington aboard Warning, who went on to win the Victoria Derby.
“I spent six months of last year in Hong Kong and four months in Australia. It was a good experience and I really enjoyed it. It was a big learning curve but another chapter in my career – you can’t beat worldwide experience,” said the Classic-winning jockey.
“I returned to the UK in February and have been riding out at Mr Gosden’s yard since. They have some team for the year ahead, without even looking back to the stars of last. I’m looking forward to the season, that’s for sure.”
There is no better yard in Britain to be associated with than that of Gosden and, while he may not be at the head of the queue in the yard right now, with Frankie Dettori taking the pick and Rab Havlin next in line, Harley is a terrific operator and Gosden is far too shrewd not to see that and to make full use of it.
In 2019 alone the yard had six individual Group 1 winners, not least Enable and Stradivarius, it is little wonder Harley is so looking forward to the season ahead, but he is also pragmatic about the current plight resulting from the coronavirus.
“We all want to get back to work, want to get back to what we know best, but in the current situation we need to keep doing the right thing.
“People are a bit frustrated but it’s out of everyone’s control. And things could be a lot worse. If anyone’s family got the virus, you wouldn’t be rushing back racing as much as people would like to rush.
“People over here are taking all the right measures, that’s for sure. Mr Gosden has a lot of sanitizers all screwed up around the yard, and even when the horses go out in the morning, they are going out in lots of eight, separated from other lots. Everyone is playing their part for sure.”
With the early part of the season having been lost, and a necessity for the racing programme to make up some lost ground, Harley is optimistic chances will present themselves for him to make his mark for the leading yard.
“Frankie Dettori and Robert Havlin are two brilliant people, and have been with the yard a long time, but I’m still young, and to be associated with and riding work on some brilliant horses certainly makes getting up in the morning a lot easier.
“With so many horses to get out, there should be a huge number of runners, with regard to Mr Gosden’s stable, and hopefully there will be plenty of opportunities.”