| Published in The Independent on 31.05.2020 | A Touch of Frost |
Illustration for Touch of Frost, 31.05.2020

Jockey Bryony Frost (left) on Frodon on her way to victory in The Ryanair Steeple Chase during St Patrick’s Thursday of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Photo credit should read: David Davies/The Jockey Club via PA Images

Yes, it’s official. We have a date for racing again. Flat racing starts June 1st and Jump racing will follow July 1st. it will be held behind closed doors with, quite understandably, numerous rules to protect everyone associated.

As a family, along with our super team here at the stables, we have already started implementing the changes to the training yard and stud and ensuring adherence to social distancing.

I thought this week you might be interested in some of the strict rules we will need to follow on race days to make sure that the whole environment is the safest it can be for jockeys and all who need to attend. This includes new protocols around functioning on the day, the limiting of numbers who can attend and what both Bryony and our staff will face every time she races.

Hey, it makes a change to reading about owls.

Attendees are limited to one trainer, one senior groom, the driver of horsebox and the jockey. Only two journalists can attend, two photographers and a major broadcaster who will have to share their content with other media. No betting companies, food or drink outlets can attend. Interviews will be done by telephone. That means Nikki will be making up a sandwich box for us then.

Everyone who is permitted to attend must complete a module on-line to demonstrate they have a baseline understanding of COVID-19, social distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, racecourse protocols and PPE requirements. Once the module has been completed it will be valid for seven days. After the seventh day, the attendee must take the module again. The module also asks questions surrounding the health of the attendee.

On arrival at the racecourse everyone will be required to answer further questions, as well as having their temperature recorded. If the temperature exceeds 37.8°C, entry onto the racecourse will be denied. Any individual that fails the on-course thermal screening will be required to provide the BHA with proof of a negative COVID-19 test or they must have completed 7 days of isolation from the onset of symptoms and be symptom free before re-admittance.

Racecourses will be managing and reconfiguring sites to enable 2 m social distancing to be achieved wherever possible. For any task imperative to the safe staging of the race meeting, and where social distancing cannot be achieved, the individuals concerned should wear a face covering.

There is still some confusion over the wearing of face masks by jockeys. Tests are still being undertaken by the BHA. Whereas flat racing jockeys often wear masks as the kick-back from horses feet in front of the jockey can sting the face, a flat race is usually carried out over a mile and is over quickly, whereas jump jockeys ride for a much longer period and have the added movement from the jump. We are concerned whether this might mean the mask could move, therefore the jockey will feel the need to adjust the mask which could be dangerous.

There will be Social Distancing Officers (SDOs) appointed by the BHA to ensure all measures are implemented and strictly adhered to at all race days.

Jockeys will not be able to shower after a race. Bear in mind Bryony can travel from one race to another covering hundreds of miles in a day, this one didn’t go down too well with her.

All horses must be prepared prior to departure to the race day. The horse’s head, neck and muzzle must be washed prior to leaving the trainer’s yard and horseboxes disinfected before and after each transport to a racecourse.

If there is any breach of the rules the BHA will be able to impose sanctions including formal warnings, financial penalties and suspensions.

We also have to download an app to record all our vaccinations of the horses are up to date and we assume, as we haven’t downloaded it yet, it will be used to negate having to fill in forms and other physical interactions.

So, there you have it. Clean box, clean horse, clean people (but no showers – so we are stocking up on wet wipes), packed lunches and keep your distance. I’m just hoping there will still be loos.

Until we catch up next week, keep safe and importantly be kind to each other.

Jimmy