'We're happy to move with the times and embrace online trading'
Industry figures tell us how they are managing in self-isolation
Ed Player of Whatton Manor Stud in Nottinghamshire tells us about how he is managing – both personally and professionally – with the Europe-wide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus
How is life at Whatton Manor Stud ticking over?
It's always a busy time on the stud and we've been very lucky as life has been going on much as normal. Our team have been brilliant, working hard to keep the show on the road and we've been fortunate to have some quality foals to keep us distracted.
What measures have you brought in on the stud to deal with the coronavirus and lockdown?
Obviously we've taken it very seriously and have been doing everything possible to lessen the risk of anybody getting it.
From the very outset of the crisis we tried to encourage people to be responsible with what they did outside of work in an effort to keep everybody healthy, as a number of our team or their dependants have underlying health issues.
Now everybody has individually labelled equipment and they travel separately round the farm and so on. Everything is also continually disinfected and we try to be very careful with our social distancing.
Are you and your clients covering fewer mares this year, or are you carrying on as normal in the hope the market recovers?
We're very lucky in having some top-end clients who own beautiful mares and they have all carried on as per normal.
Obviously the market will be more polarised than ever and as a result we have decided not to cover a couple of mares until we see how things unfold. Yearling trade is clearly going to be very tough this year but we do need to remember that the Tattersalls Book 2 median has risen from £25,000 in 2009 to £55,500 in 2019!
More through luck than good judgement we struggled to buy foals last year and so our pinhooking numbers are down by over 50 per cent.
What's your view on online-only sales, if they had to happen in Europe this year?
While things worked well at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale earlier this month I do feel it might be harder to replicate here.
At Whatton Manor Stud we are 100 per cent happy to move with the times and do anything to help facilitate the sale of our horses. Almost all other industries have embraced online trading platforms and it's time we did everything in our power to help our industry to follow suit.
We could well be in a situation where sales as we know them don't operate for the next couple of years or even longer. I think there will be far more visits from agents to farms to see stock in a safe environment ahead of sales and this, combined with more online videos, photographs and vet reports, might be the way we have to go.
Do you think there will be any positives to come out of the crisis eventually?
There are always some positives to come out of any crisis. I think this one will make the racing and breeding industries understand the fragility of the business even more than ever, and this will hopefully make the different governing bodies that run our great sport pull in the same direction going forwards.
I for one certainly feel more grateful than ever for where I live and work.
On a personal level, how are you keeping yourself busy during lockdown?
At this time of year it's very rare that I leave the stud and there's more than enough to keep me busy at all times just with day to day jobs.
My wife Katherine is an excellent cook so I'm lucky that it's almost unheard of that I do any cooking but for her birthday my eldest son and I baked her a cake, which was a first for me.
We're also working hard in the garden and should soon be self-sufficient.
Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?
I don't watch much TV, especially at this time of year, but I have been reading Brendon Chase to Harry, my eight-year-old son. The book is about three boys living wild in an English forest.
My three boys decided it was a great idea and disappeared into the woods here for four days. We didn't see them at all for the first 48 hours, which was starting to unnerve their mother, and then on the last night they invited us to their camp for dinner, where we had roast pigeon cooked in wild garlic followed by baked bananas!
What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?
There's so much to look forward to! I always find it fascinating to see which first-season sires are going to be the stars of the show.
I also love following Whatton Manor Stud graduates. We probably sold our best all-round bunch of yearlings in 2019 and I'm particularly looking forward to following three we sold to Shadwell at Tattersalls October Book 2. Zuhair, a Showcasing colt out of Rowan Brae, is in training with Marcus Tregoning, and then there are two with Sir Michael Stoute - a Kingman colt out of Sunsemperchi and a Shalaa colt out of Vayasa. I'm told all three are going well.
We also sold a cheap Belardo yearling at Ascot to Tom Ward, and I have high hopes for both the trainer and the horse!
Looking at the three-year-olds, I don't think we've seen the best of Alligator Alley, an unlucky second in the Molecomb Stakes. He was a big horse to be so precocious at two, and he looks like he will come into his own as a three-year-old.
Read more Life in Lockdown Q&As with industry figures