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Staff should continue to work as long as they are happy to do so

Racing staff and work-riders should keep going to work if they feel comfortable to do so, as their actions will benefit the sport in a variety of ways.

That was the message from the National Association of Racing Staff's chief executive George McGrath following Monday night's news that Britain had been placed in lockdown by government.

Under strict new measures introduced by prime minister Boris Johnson, travelling to and from work is one of the few reasons people should leave their homes.

Racehorses are continuing to be exercised in other European racing jurisdictions where restrictions on movement are in place, and McGrath is keen for that situation to continue in Britain.

He said on Tuesday: "First and foremost the health of our staff is our priority and it is also the industry's priority. We do not want you to jeopardise your health. If you are worried about your health, or the health of other members of your family, then do not come to work.

"In an ideal world we would put the horses away until the virus passes, but we do not live in an ideal world. If we stop exercising horses, it will lead to massive job losses. Not just for those who ride out and look after the horses, but beyond that and right through the industry.

"There is also the welfare of the horses to consider. Keeping horses in their boxes for more than a few days is dangerous. Horses need regular exercise and if this does not happen it would lead to colic and other health-related issues which is counter productive.

"The sooner we get back racing the better, even if it is behind closed doors, and as such we need the horses to be ready. If we were to stop it would take weeks for them to get back to peak fitness."

The National Trainers Federation on Monday night told members to continue exercising their horses while observing distancing rules with the utmost discipline.

Trainers contacted the organisation in the immediate aftermath of the prime minister making his announcement.

Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the NTF, said: “We have already sent a message to the industry Covid Group pointing out that in all European racing jurisdictions where severe restrictions on movement have already been implemented, racehorses are continuing to be exercised.

“Our advice to you is therefore to continue getting horses out on the gallops and other exercise areas, while observing the distancing rules with the utmost discipline.

"Our position is that the safety of staff and the welfare of horses is best protected when horses keep exercising."

Arnold told trainers to lead by example in practising social distancing and ensuring cleanliness in the yard.

He added: “Tell your staff that failure to observe the rules is a disciplinary offence.

"Make sure you, as their employer, lead by example and that all the necessary equipment and advice is available in the yard for them to wash and dry hands, clean surfaces, and keep at least two metres apart.

“We are seeking confirmation that feed, bedding and other essential supplies and services such as vet, farrier and muck removal can continue.”

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