It was good to see ITV highlighting the staff at the sharp end of racing recently. Most of them get up at ridiculous hours and can still be seen working in the evening. They are not paid fortunes, even though wages are a lot better than in the past, and they sometimes go nearly two weeks without a day off.
Yes, they have a love for the job and, as Aisling O’Brien (groom of top hurdler Laurina) said “It’s a lifestyle rather than a job”.
But the stable grooms are the ones who look after our equine heroes and without them we would not have the sport we enjoy so much.
It has got better with some stables being more flexible, especially for those workers with school age children, but the thirteen day fortnights are ridiculous. I understand that there is a chronic staff shortage (google stable staff crisis and there are articles going back four years) and getting another thousand people into the industry would help with this.
But how do we recruit? Apart from the trade papers, I have never seen an advert for stable staff. Maybe there needs to be someone from racing at job fairs. And not just in areas such as Lambourn and Newmarket.
The fact that you can get accommodation with some positions should be a selling point. I am sure there are horse lovers, of all ages, who would love to be part of a stable but have no idea where to start.
Getting back to the working hours.
When Sunday racing started there were calls for a rest day such as Monday or Tuesday when there would be no racing. It never happened and now we have floodlit racing which means even more racing and more travelling for those staff taking horses to and from racetracks.
I am sure those travelling to Dubai, Paris, and Kentucky feel privileged to take a trip like that but I guess many journeys are from north to south in this country or vice versa starting at dawn at getting home not long before closing time.
So one of my hopes for 2019 is that the stable staff problem is kept at the forefront.
Laurina ended up winning by forty eight lengths. It was a shame she only had the one opponent but she did it very easily. She will come on again for that and is in the betting for both the Champion Hurdle and the Mares Hurdle. And she is around the 4/1 mark for both.
So what is her preferred option? Two miles against Buveur D’Air or two and a half against Apples Jade? My personal view is that she will go to the Champion and use the mares allowance.
Elixir De Nutz was a game winner of the Tolworth Hurdle, making it three wins from his last three races. He jumped well and is decent prices for both the Supreme and Ballymore but his trainer, Colin Tizzard, is leaning towards the shorter race which opens the Festival. He has to be in with a chance.
The Veterans Chase Final saw a massive gamble landed. Houblon Des Obeaux won at 7/1 after being 20/1 in the morning. He won by twenty two lengths but it could have been very different had Buywise not crashed out at the last when closing on the eventual winner. Thankfully he was ok after what looked an awful fall.