We need to make the best of a bad situation, says Candice Bass-Robinson
MOST of Cape Town’s top racehorses had departed for KwaZulu-Natal for the Durban season at the beginning of March, where the Vodacom Durban July, South Africa’s premier race was due to be run on the first Saturday in July.
But with Covid-19 rearing its ugly head, Candice Bass-Robinson, the first female trainer to win the prestigious Durban July, found her string of stars stuck in Cape Town.
“My horses were only actually going to be going up in stages. I wasn’t going to send the whole string up at the beginning of the season. And then the day they were supposed to leave, we were going into lockdown, so I decided to keep them here”, Bass-Robinson explains. “I’m glad I kept them here, as it means we are all in one place and I don’t have to worry about horses stuck up in Durban, without me being there. So it worked out quite well.”
Bass Racing normally has a full complement of around 50 staff working at the racing yard. With lockdown looming the racehorses still had to be fed and exercised, while stables needed to be cleaned. Bass-Robinson admits that in the beginning it was tough going, but says her staff were absolute stars.
“I had 23 guys that decided they would be happy to stay, and they stayed on the property here. So, for the first five weeks of lockdown we worked with half the staff. Initially it was hard, but we changed a couple of things and we got into a nice groove. I had 23 really good guys here. No complaints, no moaning, they were fantastic, they were unbelievably accommodating. They just got stuck into it.
“This is what we have to do, and this is what we do. The only down side was that those guys never had a day off and it was a bit tough on them because it is hard work.”
Bass-Robinson was forced to look at new ways of doing things, with a reduced staff. “It has certainly opened my eyes to a couple of things that I need to change in my yard going forward. Procedures and structures that I would like to change, because it actually worked really well.
"As soon as the country moved to Level 4, the initial group of staff were given time off, while the second group of staff took over. The racing stable is now back up and running. “We are back to a full complement of staff," said Bass-Robinson.
“In full lockdown we obviously didn’t have any movement in and out of the yard, but with lockdown easing we are now going to have a lot more movement and that opens us up to a bit more risk. Hence, we have taken the necessary precautions.
"We take temperatures every morning on arrival. There are hand sanitisers all around the yard and they have got to sanitise their hands in between work and when they come in and leave. Masks are worn at all times, even when riding. We try to keep social distancing. It isn’t easy in a yard, but we all try and do our best. These are uncertain times all over the world and we just need to make the best we can of a bad situation.”
With the movement of horses finally being allowed now, Bass-Robinson will be sending her string up to contest the Durban season. “I have pretty much kept the horses in work, they will have a prep run here and then they depart for Durban on the 11th of June.”
For only the second time in its history, the Vodacom Durban July has been moved and the race will now be run on the July 25.
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