Seamus Mullins swaps supervising string for stacking Stilton at Waitrose
There are two different types of people in this world. People who talk about doing things and people who get things done. Seamus Mullins belongs in the latter category.
If this was a normal year, Mullins would have around 30 horses to keep him busy during the summer, however, with the majority of his string turned away and most of his staff furloughed, he has turned to stacking shelves in Waitrose to keep himself busy.
The trainer explained: “The Sunday after racing was shut down in Britain I was having lunch with my daughter-in-law, who is the team manager in the local Waitrose [in Salisbury], and she told me they are desperate for staff and that they couldn't keep up with the workload. I seem to be on the cheese aisle and yogurt aisle, I never knew there was so much cheese in the world!
“I had already taken the decision to furlough my staff, the majority of the horses had been put out to grass so it's not like I was in a position to take money out of the business so I said to her that I'd be more than happy to do a few shifts each week. It would give me something to do and, more importantly, it would keep things ticking over financially.”
Mullins added: “I am a single man and how many replays of Goodwood and Royal Ascot can you watch on Racing TV? I thought to myself, 'why not go in and do my bit to help out?' I'm not medically trained and I can't go and do a shift in a hospital or anything. The few quid comes in handy, I'm putting it towards my pension."
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the trainer, who is based near Salisbury at Wilsford Stables, at the worst possible time. Before last season was cut short, Mullins had 18 winners on the board. Two seasons ago the 58-year-old finished with 37 victors.
Off the back of such healthy performances, Mullins had reinvested in young stock, most of which are without owners.
Explaining how the pandemic has impacted his business, Mullins added: “I'm not checking my bank account, put it that way. I know it's an overused expression but we have our health and that's the main thing. There are people a lot worse off than me.
“We are riding out eight or nine horses every morning. Normally we'd be slowing down at this time of year with the jumpers but we'd always have 30 horses during the summer.
“I have always speculated but I bought a bit more than I usually do this time last year when I went and bought six yearlings. They are all working away and are ready to run. I let some of the staying types off and said I'd keep them as bumper types at worst and we've really just cut the costs right down.”
In order to keep the business afloat, Mullins, along with two members of staff who have not been furloughed, has been mucking in and helping out each morning.
The hope is that the sacrifices made now will ensure his stable staff have jobs to return to in the autumn, but they won’t be out of pocket between now and whenever racing returns with Mullins taking the financial hit.
He said: “We have furloughed all bar two of the staff and the staff have been great and accepted the situation. Hopefully we can save their jobs. I am actually paying their full wages and I am going to suck up the difference myself because you've got to look after your staff. They look after you when times are good so it's up to us employers to try and look after them during the bad times.”
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