By Duane Fonseca
ITALIAN RIDING legend Frankie Dettori has expressed his fears for the racing industry citing the Coronavirus pandemic as “scary”.
Racing has been halted at most centres across Europe, although it continues to be run on a limited basis at venues in the United States and Australia.
And Dettori believes the prospect of the pandemic continuing will have a massive impact not just on the racing industry but also those involved in the conditioning of horses on a day to day basis. Dettori himself continues to ride out at his base at Newmarket, where he lives with his family.
“We are trying to keep entertained, and for a couple of days we set up a badminton net in the sitting room and knocked a few furniture down!” Dettori said.
“I’m riding out a bit, three or four times a week and that keeps me a little bit in check, but the prospect of going through this for the next four to six weeks or maybe next few months is quite scary really.
“We are very lucky, we live in Newmarket, we have plenty of fields and there are 3,500 horses in Newmarket, the horses have to go out and be fed and looked after. We are taking every precaution, the two-metre distance with each other, but at least we are out in the fresh air.
“I wouldn’t like to be in a city at the moment, stuck in an apartment and not able to go out. In one respect we are very lucky, but I feel very sorry for the guys who don’t have the freedom we have.”
Dettori has spoken of his anguish at the coronavirus situation back in his homeland, where his elderly mother still lives.
“She’s had pneumonia in the past so she has to be really careful, because if she takes to this virus she may not make it through, so I'm a bit concerned about her,” Dettori said.
“Dad goes to Morocco in the winter, so he’s in lockdown, he’s 79. So I've got parents that have to be careful. It's a worry for everyone, it's touched everybody's lives.
“If you picture all those coffins in a field and imagine how big that field would be it's heart-breaking. It seems endless, and every day we hope that you can read something better, but it doesn’t look like it's letting up. Having friends and family in Italy is a concern.
“Luckily at the moment, touch wood, most of my family are fine. A lot of properties in Milan you live in are flats, and a lot of people are kind of confined in their own little prison.
“The mood of the people is good - but it's getting a bit frustrating because it seems like every day it's getting worse and worse. We haven't seen it get any better. We are just praying day by day.”
Dettori has set up a Gofundme page to raise money for the Italian Red Cross and is looking forward to the resumption of racing in Britain where the British Horseracing Authority has decided to explore the possibility of meetings behind closed doors next month.
At Newcastle, the 49yo often ponders winning a third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with John Gosden’s wondermare Enable. But Dettori knows only time will tell when and how the racing machinery will roar into life.
“I work with John and we were all ready to go. Things are carrying on as usual, people’s morale is good. Enable looks great – I see her every morning and she looks great. The frustrating thing is not knowing when we are going to start,” Dettori said.
“I’m keeping myself a little bit fit, but even so you can’t see the end of this problem and it’s very hard to keep motivated.
“What makes me tick is the big races, I can’t wait to start. Who knows if we’ll have the Derby this year or if it will be postponed. There’s so many questions. I haven’t got the answer – will we run Royal Ascot behind closed doors?
“It’s difficult times – racing is not that important, it’s important to us but there are people dying out there and we have to get our priorities right.”