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'Our stud secretary has said clients have never been so organised'

Industry figures tell us how they are managing in self-isolation

Ed Harper: enjoyed reading Eddie Jones' autobiography
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Ed Harper, director of Whitsbury Manor Stud in Hampshire, 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 ticking over for you at the moment?

From the start of lockdown our long-serving secretary Carole Steel volunteered to manage the office alone, so stud manager Phil Haworth and myself had to move out.

Rather than just sit at home on my laptop I decided to try and help the team by keeping an eye on the pregnant mares throughout the afternoons. I would park my car next to the foaling unit and keep an eye out, not expecting much to happen, while speaking to clients on my mobile.

However, three mares did decide to test whether I still remember what to do by deciding to get down quickly and foal in the paddock during my watch which, on one occasion, rather ruined a pair of shoes as I was not properly prepared.

Can you give us a taste of some of the nice foals you've been welcoming this year?

We have a very powerful Havana Grey colt out of Satsuma, which makes him a half-brother to last year's Cornwallis winner Good Vibes. We're delighted with our Havana Greys and have sent a number of our mares back to him after having good foals such as Dolly Colman, whose Adaay yearling made 120,000gns last year.

We've also had a nice full-brother to Tasleet, by Showcasing, born a couple of weeks ago.

What's your view on online sales, if they had to happen in Europe this year?

Anything that can mitigate the inevitable downturn is hugely welcome, but I'd be careful not to assume that it will go as well as it has at Inglis.

Australia has a much healthier market to begin with, racing has not stopped out there, and they have a culture of getting on the road and inspecting horses prior to sale.

Personally, I will make it as easy as possible for those wanting to come to Whitsbury and inspect our horses this year. We have 36 yearlings to sell, more than ever, so it would be worth the while.

Are you or your clients covering any fewer mares this year because of an expected downturn in the market?

We're on course to cover 450 mares through our shed this year, a record number, so we're lucky to have popular stallions at a difficult time.

In terms of our own broodmares, we've covered fewer mares to outside stallions so our foal sales draft next year will look more Whitsbury-centric.

What's your best guess on what will happen to the market this year, and how long it will take to recover?

I'd rather not think about it. Whether it be 10 per cent down or 60 per cent down my intent will be exactly the same: to do the best for my clients and breed fast horses.

The North American Jockey Club has announced a 140-mare stallion cap. You choose to limit books at Whitsbury Manor Stud, but would you welcome other studs in Europe being forced to do the same?

Generally in life I'm pro-free market, but I've noticed that the sale catalogues and top races have become less diverse even in the relatively short time that I've been directly involved in the industry.

It would be a shame to lose the nuance of breeding if only a handful of top stallions remained in the country. We've seen so many stallion studs stop trading in Britain over the last 25 years, and no doubt it has been the increase in stallion book sizes that has been the main driver for this.

Do you think there will be any positives to come out of the crisis eventually?

Our stud secretary Carole has said our clients have never been so organised! There have been far fewer last-minute paperwork panics before covering.

I thought there was a huge opportunity for racing to grab new interest if it could start up before other live sports, and perhaps there is still time.

I've certainly learned to enjoy what you love, so perhaps the enforced introspection may encourage some people to take the plunge in to ownership.

Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?

I read Eddie Jones' autobiography and felt a strange sense of kinship with him. I too struggle with my competitive sporting nature at times. I recommend it to any sports fan, not just rugby people.

It was much better than Ben Stokes' new book, which sent me to sleep.

What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?

Crikey, I could write for hours. I'm desperate for Adaay's first two-year-olds to be unleashed. I'm hoping Due Diligence's Group winners from his first crop last year, Streamline and Good Vibes, can run in the top three-year-old sprints.

Showcasing has his best bred crop of two-year-olds to run for him, and then there is also Kurious, who we lease to Hot To Trot. She's a very exciting sprint proposition for us and could be anything.


Read more Life in Lockdown Q&As with industry figures

Adrian O'Brien: 'There are plenty of reasons to maintain a spring in the step'

Billy Jackson Stops: 'The buying bench is going to be heavily depleted'

Alex Elliott: 'Cooking and cycling were two things I never thought I could do'

Joey Cullen: 'Racing has the chance to showcase itself to a captive audience'

Claire Sheppard: 'The TBA had to move quickly to save the covering season'

Tomas Janda: 'Lower prices could encourage new buyers to get involved'

Matt Hall: 'Films are a waste of time – I watch festival replays instead'

Tom Goff: 'I've painted two garden seats. God, I sound so middle-aged!'

Simon Sweeting: 'Rightly or wrongly I'm having all my mares covered'

Richard Kent: 'Stud fees and sales house charges will have to come down'

Philippa Mains: 'The industry is a family and we help each other out'

Claire Goodwillie: 'People have realised if you're not online you're invisible'

Tina Rau: 'I'm enjoying post-dinner quarantinis with friends over video call'

Daniel Creighton: 'The market will recover – the only question is when'

Ed Player: 'We're happy to move with the times and embrace online trading'

Patrick Sells: 'Chasemore Farm is effectively operating in a bubble'

Chad Schumer: 'Racing in the US being cancelled is the biggest frustration'

Tom Blain: 'Trade will be down but all we can do is roll with the punches'

Ted Voute: 'We'll need to strengthen the way we showcase young stock'

Simon Kerins: 'We'll embrace any format that will help get horses sold'

Barry Lynch: 'The industry has often bounced back as quickly as it dipped'

Tim Lane: 'Working with horses does you the world of good in these times'

Jerry Horan: 'My sister butchered my haircut. I think it was payback'

Violet Hesketh and Mimi Wadham: 'Social distancing isn't hard - just lonely!'

Henry Beeby: 'Nick Nugent and I have entered a beard growing competition'

Charles O'Neill: 'ITM will be ready to go when the markets open up again'

Freddy Powell: 'We're improving our online sale platform in case it's needed'

Bumble Mitchell: 'Online sales could be tricky for outlying studs like mine'

David Stack: 'I had to give a garda a lesson about the birds and the bees'

Colm Sharkey: 'I've been torturing myself trying to sort out my golf swing'

Rachael Gowland: 'I didn't realise how much I loved racing until I couldn't go'

Sam Hoskins: 'I've been listening to endless Cold War podcasts on my tractor'

Niamh Spiller: 'Video calls are very important to keep everyone motivated'

Jamie Lloyd: 'Staff have had all their own gear labelled, even wheelbarrows'

Micheál Orlandi: 'The stallions are flying and that gives me great hope'

Richard Venn: 'The French are in a good position to get back racing sooner'

Tim Kent: 'It's difficult to plan when we don't know when racing will resume'

Russell Ferris: 'Weatherbys had contingency plans that we activated at once'

Grant and Tom Pritchard-Gordon: 'Inglis Easter has kept us busy since January'

Peter Hockenhull: 'The social side of meeting and chatting to breeders is gone'

Polly Bonnor: 'We've fulfilled every feed order, including all our exports'

Richard Lancaster: 'We're fortunate that some Shadwell staff live on site'

I'm desperate for Adaay's first two-year-olds to be unleashed
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