'I didn't realise how much I loved racing until I couldn't go any more'
Industry members tell us how they are managing in self-isolation
Rachael Gowland, marketing and communications manager at the British EBF, tells us about how she is managing – both personally and professionally – with the Europe-wide lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
How is life at the British EBF ticking over?
Being able to get the majority of the British EBF National Hunt races run before racing was suspended – and particularly the EBF Novice Hurdle Final, which was won by McFabulous, and the Mare’s National Hunt Flat Race Final – was really important for us.
They're significant end of season targets for owners and trainers alike, so to get two of the four finals and all bar a couple of qualifiers run was great.
Aside from that, it's inevitable that my job especially is a great deal changed. I usually spend a huge amount of time on the road, visiting courses and representing the British EBF, so this is somewhat uncharted waters!
What new measures have you brought in to deal with coronavirus and the lockdown?
Our CEO Kerry Murphy has been great. It's been a considered approach towards lockdown and through her management, we've been able to identify the key issues and work that needs to be done.
From an office point of view, we're fortunate to have a small team with specific roles and responsibilities. Although these are unprecedented ways of working, we're adapting to the new circumstances and learning to prioritise and work on slightly different aspects of our jobs.
There are always tasks that one puts off for a quieter time or projects that have been on the back burner for a while – now is the time to bring those forward. We also have reporting duties to our board of trustees and strategic decisions to help them undertake so we still have a workload, albeit one that is different from what we are used to for the time of year.
We stay in touch on a one-to-one basis and via an office Whats App group; it’s mostly work but inevitably the odd meme or video creeps in for entertainment.
Have you got a feel for how stallion coverings, and therefore future EBF contributions, are holding up in the current crisis?
Unlike racing, the breeding industry has been able to operate during this time. We understand many of the studs around Newmarket that take boarding mares are full and the conversations we have had with stallion studs indicate that mares are still being covered and to many, stud life is carrying on as normal.
The TBA published very clear protocols for the breeding industry to follow during this time and that will have helped things enormously. It must be much easier for breeders and stallion studs to navigate the situation if you have clarity.
It's still relatively early days of the outbreak and who knows how this will play out and what ultimate effect it will have on the number of mares covered in Britain this year? At the moment, we're letting the stallion masters get on with the important job of looking after the horse and clients while being mindful of the potential repercussions that the response to Covid-19 could have on the breeding industry and the sales landscape.
How will the prize-money contributions to the many EBF races lost during the cancellation of racing be redistributed?
That's one of our major pieces of work at the moment. We're in regular contact with the BHA and Levy Board as well as individual courses; keeping the lines of communication open is essential.
The British EBF is a major contributor to the prize-money of racing in this country and we're well aware that once racing resumes, our contributions will be a crucial part of the prize-money equation.
We have to allow the group tasked with progressing the resumption of racing to formulate a workable plan and make decisions on issues such as prize-money and minimum values.
We can’t make any hard and fast decisions until we know the new framework within which we will be asked to work and help. In the meantime, we have important work to do in evaluating what proportion of our projected 2020 investment can feasibly be used this year and how we can best support the industry when we do start racing.
That may mean that the British EBF has to temporarily adapt the way it funds races to be as proactive as we can. We're working on the options and making sure that when the time comes, we're ready to do our part while being mindful that the money our contributors invest through us for the benefit of racing is used in a responsible and effective way.
On a personal level, how are you keeping yourself busy during lockdown?
I’m lucky to live in a rural area with plenty of space to enjoy the outdoors. I do yoga each day and either run, cycle or walk too.
My Arabian broodmare is at stud and due to have her first foal at the end of April so that's something to look forward to and I'm also custodian of three very old, very bossy ewes, so they keep me entertained!
I’m grateful for the online Racing Post content and for my daily EBN download which both keep me in touch with industry developments and I’m enjoying the feature pieces. It's a good time to learn things you never knew about the sport you work in!
Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?
I’m not usually a TV person but, like most other people on the planet, I've succumbed to the revelation that is Tiger King. I didn’t even know people bred big cats on that scale let alone what a den of iniquity and intrigue surrounded it.
I’m a huge music fan so I've been watching a lot of music documentaries on Netflix and film-wise watched The Two Popes, which is excellent and shot beautifully.
I actually have three books on the go! It feels like a good time to read books that remind you of a human’s huge mental and physical resilience, sense of adventure and need for freedom so I can highly recommend A Time Of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor; Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan and the novel that changed my life: Papillon by Henri Charriere.
What is the availability of groceries and essential products around you like?
I can’t bear the thought of going to a supermarket and queuing! I go to the local town where we have a proper butcher, baker and green grocer. I haven’t struggled for anything to date…
What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?
This experience has taught me two things professionally so far: I didn’t realise how much I loved racing until I couldn’t go, and I didn’t appreciate what wonderful people I get to work with, both at the EBF and in the wider industry.
I’m looking forward to just seeing thoroughbreds do what they do best and greeting friends and colleagues in person again.
If I was to choose one horse that I can’t wait to see again it would be Pinatubo. We're so proud of our involvement in the Woodcote Stakes and how boosting the prize-money in that race has helped attract really exciting horses like him to it again.
Read our Life in Lockdown Q&As with industry figures