THE current coronavirus crisis is creating a rollercoaster situation for everyone, with new instructions from the Government virtually every day – and that obviously includes horse racing.

Just a fortnight ago the popular Cheltenham Festival took place, the biggest jump meeting in the sport. Apart from some hand sanitiser stands distributed around the venue, there was little evidence that anything unusual was happening in the world.

But as soon as the last race of the festival had been run, attention switched to the immediate future of the industry due to the rapid spread of the virus during the week.

On Monday last week, it was decided that racing could go-ahead but it was going to be ‘behind closed doors’ with no public admitted. Fixtures at Taunton and Wetherby took place on Tuesday under those conditions.

But on Tuesday itself, following the latest news conference hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that decision was changed and racing was suspended from Wednesday until the end of April (at the earliest). The British Horseracing Authority cited the need to protect essential emergency services as well as the health and welfare of staff working in the industry.

So where does that leave the racecourses and the rest of the industry, including owners, trainers, breeders, stable staff and jockeys? Well, that’s a good question and one we are still coming to terms with.

We employ 36 full-time staff across Chepstow and Ffos Las Racecourses, as well as hundreds of casual staff who work on race days and other events.

Since last Tuesday, the full-time teams have been busy dealing with the fall-out of the decision to cancel April’s fixtures. There are ticket and hospitality bookings for the various race meetings that either need to be refunded or transferred to another fixture later this year. For example, the appearance by From The Jam has been moved from Saturday, 4th April to Saturday, 10th October.

The ground staff also have essential track maintenance to carry out, so we are ready to go as soon as racing is given the go-ahead.

For the immediate future, there are lots of other maintenance and painting jobs to be completed around the site, but because of the latest Government advice regarding home working, those tasks may be delayed.

One of the biggest challenges we face, like all other businesses, is that we don’t know when this is going to end, so future planning is extremely difficult.

For example, we are receiving a large number of phone calls, e-mails and social media enquiries about the likelihood of the James Arthur race night going ahead on Saturday, 6th June. At this stage, we simply can’t give anyone an answer.

All I can ask customers to do is keep an eye on the website and our social media feeds where the very latest information will be published. I’ll keep everyone posted on the prospects of a resumption of horse racing and our other events via this column in the coming weeks.