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'These aren't the best of times' - Scottish trainer quits and fears for others

Lucy Normile: has enjoyed a 20-year training career but is no longer able to make it pay
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Lucy Normile has given up training and expressed fears the Covid-19 pandemic will force others to hand in their licences.

And her worries were echoed by National Trainers Federation chief executive Rupert Arnold, although he pointed to the resilience of those in the profession.

Normile, who is based in Perthshire and enjoyed her biggest win with Vandas Choice in a valuable handicap hurdle at Down Royal in 2003, has trained for 20 years but is no longer able to make it pay in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

"You'd have to put Covid-19 as the real factor," she said. "I haven't got enough horses to keep going and we then had to turn a lot of the summer jumpers out when we didn't know what was happening. I've had a couple of owners who have been hit hard. 

"We're the last on the line of places to spend money – people don't have to have racehorses but they have to feed and clothe their family. It's my business but it's everyone else's hobby and in this current economic disaster we're bottom of the chain."

'It's never been a profitable business'

Normile, 48, had her final runner when Granite City Doc finished second at Newcastle last Saturday and reflected: "It's horrible. It's been my life for as long as I can remember, through the good times and the bad times, but I've got to the stage where I've just got to think of my kids and my partner and work out what's best for all of us.

"I have no idea what I'm going to do now. Maybe something that actually makes me some money! It's probably never been profitable but you keep going and you have some nice horses and some good winners – you don't lose money but you don't make money. It's never been a profitable business but it's kept the wolf from the door and kept us going. 

"Small yards do find it hard, there are all the unseen costs. And there is a problem finding staff, that is worldwide, not just in the racing industry – people don't want to be doing the work."

Arguments, tension and a huge team effort: the inside story of racing's return

Normile fears other trainers are likely to follow her lead and said: "A lot of jobs are going to go once the furlough business ceases and a lot of people will say they don't have the money to be spending on having racehorses. 

"I hope I'm wrong but it's tough being a smaller trainer at the best of times – and these aren't the best of times. There are people dying or losing family members so there are others in a lot worse state than me but it's pants."

Responding to her views, Arnold said: "Things were difficult for small-scale trainers even before the coronavirus. Racing is even more a numbers game than it was before. Racing stopping for a period and the impact, as Lucy says, on the wider economy and businesses that provide the financial wherewithal for owners to have horses in training, is going to have an effect.

"I guess it would be no surprise if a few found conditions too much in coming months. 

"But trainers are incredibly resilient, they find a way to keep going. One might have thought that more would have stopped training during the recession from 2008 but people find a way, and there are always new people coming through who want to take a chance."

Read more:

'It's cost us between £40,000 and £50,000' – Pontefract counting price of racing

'I've worked out it's cost me £56,000 to date' – Sir Mark Prescott on Covid-19

Historic Carlisle Bell falls foul of pandemic as Jockey Club counts the cost

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It's my business but it's everyone else's hobby and in this current economic disaster we're bottom of the chain

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Lucy Normile
E.W. Terms