'I've been listening to endless Cold War podcasts in my tractor'
Industry members tell us how they are managing in self-isolation
Sam Hoskins, who manages the Hot To Trot Racing and Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds syndicates, tells us about how he is managing – both personally and professionally – with the British government's lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
How is life for you ticking over?
Life is very surreal right now and has completely changed overnight, as it has for so many.
I would usually be hosting endless yard visits for our members at this time of the year but instead I'm having to rely on keeping them entertained by email or phone instead.
During the rest of my time, I'm mucking out cattle and driving a tractor for days on end at the Gloucestershire farm where we're longstanding tenants.
I've learned a lot since I took it over in the autumn, after my father's death, and the extra time I now have is no bad thing from the farm's perspective.
What are you doing differently at work, if anything, to deal with coronavirus and the lockdown?
We had so many events planned for both syndicates this spring and it's been so sad to have had to postpone so many great things including, just in the past fortnight, lunches and suppers in Middleham, Newmarket and Lambourn; a walk of the course at Aintree; a visit to Oaksey House; and an end of jumps season lunch at Ascot.
It's sad to see all the time taken to organise things go to waste but of course it's such small fry compared to the situation so many people find themselves in.
When the green shoots of recovery appear there'll be a lot of rescheduling to do. It could be a very busy late summer and autumn!
Are syndicate members being kept up to date with their horses, even if trainers aren't doing much with them at present?
Yes, we're trying our best to keep them very well informed.
There's plenty still to tell them, as most trainers have the Flat horses doing plenty now even if most are holding off faster work for now.
Videos are so important at times like these and the gorgeous weather has been an excellent backdrop for many of those.
You're a big proponent of syndicates: do you think there will be more opportunity, or even a need, for them when the industry rebuilds after the lockdown ends?
Well that’s a very good question, and one I’m not really able to answer with much certainty.
I do fear reduced disposable income will make it harder to sell shares in the autumn as we're dealing with ‘normal people’ whose work could be jeopardised or pensions badly bit.
However, if some sole owners are forced to relinquish their usual outright ownerships, hopefully partnerships and syndicates are a way of retaining their involvement in the sport.
It’s a lot easier to sell shares in a horse than a horse outright so (being completely biased of course!) syndicates remain a great way of people dipping their toe – they may stick in the shallow end or go in a bit deeper, but either way they are involved and/or invested.
On a personal level, how are you keeping yourself busy during lockdown?
I've been doing lots of ‘rainy day’ chores in my free time, running plenty in the absence of being able to play tennis and watching plenty of Netflix series with my wife.
My body may be staying at home but my heart still remains very much on a dormant racecourse!
Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?
I finished off a great book called Beneath A Scarlet Sky the other day and I’d recommend it to anyone into World War Two history. I've also been listening to endless Cold War podcasts in my tractor.
On a lighter note, I watched Basic Instinct the other night. It's a great educational movie.
What is the availability of groceries and essential products around you like?
Cirencester is my local town and there are plenty of supermarkets around as well as farm shops on the outskirts, so touch wood we have been quite lucky.
What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?
Everyone’s geese are swans at this time of year, of course, but I'm hugely excited about our team of horses for both Hot To Trot and Kennet Valley.
Hot To Trot have Coral Charge winner Kurious back in action and she seems to have done really over the winter. We hope she can make the step up to Group 1 level this season with a race like the Flying Five bang on her radar.
Magical Memory returns for Kennet Vallet Thoroughbreds after a long layoff and is moving great. However, we also seem to have some real strength in depth with the likes of Sir Busker, a progressive four-year-old rated 92, and Dance Fever, an unbeaten three-year-old rated 91 and capable of making a big impact.
The two-year-old division also appears very exciting with Hot To Trot's team including a full-sister to The Tin Man with James Fanshawe and a Kingman half-sister to Overdose going to Andrew Balding.
Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds have five cracking two-year-olds which are hard to split but our New Approach filly with Mark Johnston, Novelty, has made a very positive early impression.
On a first-season sire note, Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds have a lovely Belardo colt with William Knight called Dual Identity. It's too early to know the size of his engine but he's a fluent mover who loves his job.
So there's lots of look forward to if, or when.
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