Have horsebox, will travel: Williams finds loophole in French quarantine rules
Conditional rider Chester Williams is taking the letter of the law in France literally after finding a way to circumvent quarantine rules as he prepares to return to competitive action for the first time since jump racing in Britain went into lockdown in March.
Williams has two rides on Fox Pro and Daim Pierji, both trained by his mother Jane, at Dieppe on Thursday. He will be travelling in the horsebox to France, which means the jockey will be classed as a freight transporter and therefore exempts him from the voluntary 14-day quarantine period travellers arriving from Britain in France are currently being asked to observe.
Williams, who was making the trip to the Normandy racecourse in northern France on Wednesday, explained: "Because I'm part of the freight, I don’t have to quarantine. I’m travelling with the horses in the lorry alongside another person."
Had the rider travelled alone, he would have faced the same 14-day quarantine period currently in place for foreign travellers entering Britain or France, and therefore would not have been eligible to ride.
While the jockey has managed to work around the coronavirus restrictions, trainer Jane Williams remains grounded at the family yard in Devon and is hoping all the correct paperwork has been filed to allow her horses and rider to compete at Dieppe.
"We've complied with whatever France Galop has told us to do," she said. "Chester has been allowed to ride and it gives him a chance to ride over there rather than not being allowed to over here.
"He is one of the drivers and international freight transporters are exempt from voluntary quarantine. We've filled out so many forms and jumped through so many hoops and I'm hoping they get down to the start with the jockey on the horse, and then I will be very relieved."
Williams, who has enjoyed notable success in France in the past, including when Fox Pro landed a Listed hurdle at Compiegne last year, added: "What happens when he comes back here I don't know but he can't ride here anyway. What are we supposed to do? Sit around on our hands doing nothing?
"We need to get back earning some money or none of us are going to be here if it carries on like this for much longer."
As a 5lb conditional Williams is not eligible to ride in Britain until July 13. More experienced riders are set to return when jump racing resumes in Britain at Southwell next Wednesday.
On the chances of returning to action with a winner on Thursday, Chester Williams said: "It’s Fox Pro’s first time in a French chase. He's finished second on his two starts over fences and has got to have a good chance. On hurdles he's got the best form in the race.
"Daim Pierji is probably up against it, it looks a strong race and Punch Nantais will take a lot of beating."
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