Sand boys defend racing's resumption

All-weather professionals dismiss foot-and-mouth fears

It was warm and vernal here yesterday in a comfortable corner of Britain's most affluent county. Deep in Surrey, it was difficult to hear the roar of revolution.

It was warm and vernal here yesterday in a comfortable corner of Britain's most affluent county. Deep in Surrey, it was difficult to hear the roar of revolution.

By their very presence, the trainers, jockeys and racegoers that added up to Lingfield Park's usual crowd of around 500 showed they were not of the belief that they might be spreading foot-and-mouth by their actions.

There was no gauntlet for them to run, no picket line, just rather unimpressive disinfected pads between the picket fences on which to cleanse the car wheels. Pressure on the foot pads on the way into the track brought up a cock-a-leekie substance. For those used to racecourse catering, it was a familiar liquid.

Indeed, it was disturbingly familiar all round. If dissension about the continuation of racing is to come, it will be in conjunction with the more bucolic Cheltenham Festival which is due to begin next Tuesday.

Lingfield and Cheltenham are not similar occasions even apart from their respective surfaces and different codes. Prestbury Park is not notable for its slow horses and meagre crowd watching in the atmosphere of the library.

Lingfield's all-weather track is usually the last refuge when other courses cannot race through poor weather. On this occasion it provided a different sanctuary, away from exclusion zones and rural neighbours.

It meant a return to the equine betting jungle for two of Lingfield's most notable faces, the professional punting pair of Eddie "The Shoe" Fremantle and Dave Nevison. Neither has been idle during the past week. They have been down the dogs. "I've been to five Crayfords and three Walthamstows," Nevison revealed. "I don't know much about the greyhounds, but I know people who do. I called in a few favours."

In the Munchkinland of the weighing room were the smallest of the small men, apparent Dickensian chimney sweeps. Lingfield is the ring where young and famished apprentices are blooded, where the more experienced men tune up for the Flat season ahead. The riders appeared not to be taking any chances and emerged from their quarters behind masks. Kickback from the surface rather than any biological worry lay behind the protection, however.

One of the senior men, Dean McKeown, had driven down from Monk Fryston in Yorkshire with two fellow jockeys. Neither the prospect of losing money on the day after just a single riding fee nor representation from the National Farmers' Union was about to stop him plying his trade. For McKeown, and his weighing-room colleagues, foot-and-mouth takes second place to hand to mouth.

"All of us sympathise with the farmers but if the government say it's all right and the Jockey Club who license us say it is okay then we are happy to go back to work," he said. "Somebody has got to turn up and ride these horses so why not me? I'm not going to stand alone with a personal protest because no-one in there would follow me. I've got three kids, a wife, four dogs, two cats, a rabbit, chickens, ponies and horses. It's hard to feed them on £65 plus VAT."

The greatest mobilisation of workers, the invasion force yesterday, came from within the ranks of the media. For each trainer there seemed to be a tripod. Racing, at the moment, may be split into suburban and farming trainers, the cavaliers and the roundheads. The latter group believe the others to be too cavalier in their attitude to the spread of disease. The trainers on parade yesterday may not be the potential losers, but they nevertheless consider the risk a chance worth taking.

"Peter Webbon [the Jockey Club chief veterinary officer] says it's 100 million-1 against us spreading anything," Philip Mitchell, the Epsom trainer, said. "All this is political, with racing having to be seen to be doing the right thing.

"The Ministry did not stop racing, we did it off our own backs, and, while there may be more outbreaks now, the Jockey Club has followed the route, they have plotted how it is spread and isolated the movement.

"We are doing everything in our power to ensure that racing does not spread this epidemic and I truly feel that trainers who adhere to the Jockey Club recommendations about basic common hygiene pose no threat to racing."

At leafy Lingfield yesterday this was not an article of faith with which anyone disagreed. At Sandown tomorrow, over the jumps, we will witness the reaction of the National Hunt fraternity.

Betting duty abolished

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has announced he is replacing the 6.75 per cent betting duty - which is passed on to punters in a 9 per cent tax - with a 15 per cent gross profits tax on bookmakers from 1 January 2002. Bookmakers can absorb the new tax themselves, allowing punters to bet tax-free in the United Kingdom.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower