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29 July 2020

COVID-19 – stay in touch with racing’s response

Find out how racing’s people and businesses have helped their communities during the Coronavirus pandemic

Last updated 10/09.

Stay in touch with this page as we reflect the work being done across racing to help those in need.


Racecourses nationwide responded to the needs of their local area; whether by hosting NHS testing sites, setting up food banks, pop-up vaccination or blood donation centres to relieve pressure on the healthcare system.

While on lockdown, a number of essential racecourse grounds and maintenance team members created messages in support of NHS and key workers, whether mowing grass in the shape of NHS, or lighting up their racecourses blue. See Epsom’s effort below.

  • Aintree: In addition to two pallets of food donations, they are supporting inner-city riding school charity Park Palace Ponies; hosting a Poetry Competition with Sefton Borough Council, and worked with Everton in the Community to give 52 surplus hanging baskets to care homes and local residents.
  • The Grand National Festival: On Thursday 2nd April, which would have been the first day of the 2020 Grand National Festival, the racecourse announced a giveaway of 10,000 free tickets for the same day in 2021, specifically to NHS workers, re-naming the day Liverpool’s NHS Day. Profits from bets placed on the ‘Virtual Grand National’ raised over £2.6 million for NHS Charities Together, the umbrella organisation that represents more than 140 NHS charities. Collectively, these charities contribute £1 million a day to support the work of the NHS. Racecourse Ambassador, Soprano Laura Wright sent a specially recorded video of her singing to the children of Alder Hey Hospital, as a replacement for the annual jockeys visit.
  • Ascot: The racecourse team lit up their big screen in support of NHS and key workers. The track delivered supplies to a food bank in Slough, donating £3,000 worth of essential goods, ranging from tinned items of food to toiletries, and made a £3,000 donation. The racecourse has also supported emergency COVID-19 appeals for both the Berkshire Community Foundation (Dingley’s Promise), First Days Charity and Thames Hospice.
  • Following the cancellation of its popular Spring Family Raceday, which was scheduled for Sunday, March 29, Ascot collaborated with some of the entertainers who were due to perform and produced a range of videos and activities for children to enjoy online. Their annual Schools Art Competition ran online, with winning entries enjoying a Zoom call with ITV Racing’s Oli Bell and jockey Ryan Moore, rather than their usual day at the racecourse.
  • From April to July, volunteer employees from Ascot Racecourse and its security partners, CSP, have been providing a driving service to help NHS Frimley Trust transport medical staff and/or equipment between their hospital sites totalling over 1,400 hours – read more here. The racecourse also become a testing centre for NHS key workers and their dependents.
  • Royal Ascot: the racecourse launched #StyledwithThanks ahead of the Royal meeting behind-closed-doors, kickstarting the campaign with a £100,000 donation from the community funds. Viewers watching from home dressed up and shared their photos on social media, in turn donating £5 to support the four frontline beneficiary charities: The Care Workers Charity, NHS Charities Together, Berkshire Community Foundation and the National Emergencies Trust, ultimately raising over £400,000 in total. Read more here.
  • Ascot used the week to highlight three local heroes nominated by NHS Frimley Trust and Berkshire Community Foundation. Andy Booth, Sheila Bond and Karen Kersley all received surprise afternoon tea hampers to say thank you for their volunteering and donations to help their community during the outbreak. On Saturday of the Royal meeting, jockeys came together to pledge their riding fees in support of NHS Charities Together.
  • All-Weather Championships: the winners of the cut-short Arena Racing Company series all kindly decided to donate all or a proportion of this money to an NHS charity to help fight the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, totalling over £25,000. This includes Champion Owner Godolphin who donated their entire £10,000 prize. Read more here.
  • Arena Racing Company: The racecourse and greyhound group has announced it will be giving 50,000 tickets, split across its venues to NHS workers once it is deemed safe for racing to return, by way of a thank you. With help from racing’s cartoonist Darren Bird they have created downloadable colouring pages for their racecourses to share with followers (see tweet below from Hereford Racecourse).
  • Arena Racing Company (ARC) and the Reuben Foundation introduced a scheme to support the communities local to six of its venues, supplying over 9,500 emergency supply boxes for distribution in the areas surrounding Newcastle, Chepstow, Fontwell, Wolverhampton, Great Yarmouth and Doncaster. The initiative is in association with Local Authorities to identify the essential needs of people who currently face real hardship throughout the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
  • Jockey Club Catering: Food Donations from cancelled fixtures are taking place across the group.
  • Chester: Set up a local food bank drop off point, donating over £1,000 worth of food items, and also gave away free frozen meals to NHS workers. These activities only ran for a short time owing to the  racecourse being put into lockdown due to illness.
  • Goodwood: Louise Harwood, who manages the racecourse’s 4,000+ annual members, has called all 184 members aged over 80 to check on their wellbeing and offer help. In cases, this has meant going to the supermarket on their behalf, in others it has simply meant being at the end of the phone to make them feel less lonely. In one instance, an elderly member was having trouble with their computer, meaning that it was impossible to keep in touch via email and do online shopping. Louise enlisted the help of Goodwood Racecourse’s IT team, who were able to fix the problem by speaking with the member over the phone and giving the necessary assistance.
  • During the Qatar Goodwood Festival, their trial to welcome racegoers was cancelled at the last minute due to changes in Government advice. This meant that leftover food could be donated to local community cause Stonepillow.
  • Haydock Park: became a drive-through testing centre for NHS workers. See Luck on Sunday interview below with local MP Conor McGinn highlighting the racecourse’s approach to helping their community.
  • Leicester: Created a drop-off point for a local food bank.
  • Lingfield Park: In partnership with local publican, Simon from The Star Lingfield, they are providing fresh fruit and vegetables and cakes to help make up food parcels. Simon has helped over 100 people in the Lingfield area with his food parcels.
  • Ludlow: handed over all Oxygen from the Medical Room to the NHS. Using for free the Racecourse for Blood Donors.
  • Newbury: launched a partnership with Age Concern Newbury & District to feed the most vulnerable elderly via ‘Meals on Wheels’ in West Berkshire during the COVID-19 crisis. The Rocking Horse Nursery remained open, providing childcare for a number of children whose parents are key workers in the local area. The children were busy supporting the NHS Nightingale Appeal, providing colourful pictures of rainbows to thank the incredible NHS staff.
  • Perth: Lent a set of radios to their Senior Racecourse Medical Officers who are front line NHS workers.
  • York and Pontefract: Racecourse Staff volunteered to the help the NHS.
  • Warwick: opened a pop-up blood testing clinic in conjunction with Warwick Hospital. The hospital found that a lot of patients skipped appointments, put off attending the hospital due to coronavirus concerns, so now instead they can come to the racecourse to have tests taken. The team asked local residents to drop off uplifting NHS/ rainbow pictures at the racecourse, to brighten the entrance and restaurant windows for passers-by. The racecourse has also fundraised for both Racing Welfare and the Royal British Legion through online initiatives during lockdown, including a virtual running race and a virtual champion hurdle!
  • York: The Stableside part of the organisation, which usually provides accommodation for stable staff, switched its focus to offer NHS staff a place to stay. Some NHS staff are facing the extra challenge of being isolated from their own families, sometimes by travel distance or perhaps because their own household has vulnerable members. They need somewhere to sleep, have a meal and find a space to recharge their batteries, which is where Stableside has been able to help. This is being done whilst respecting the social distancing protocols and so the wellbeing of the small team and their guests. The racecourse also gave 8,000 surplus pansies, grown from seedling by the track’s gardeners for cancelled fixtures, away to the public who passed near to the Knavesmire for their permitted exercise.

Racing Charities

  • Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF) – using social media to keep helping beneficiaries: The IJF is finding innovative ways to make sure that as many of its beneficiaries as possible are fully connected with services during this national shutdown. The charity’s three centres were all closed to the public but the team has set up video consultations for a one-to-one Physiotherapy and Strength & Conditioning service. This includes supervision of exercises and providing bespoke rehabilitation plans. Long-term beneficiaries are being contacted regularly by phone by the IJF’s network of regional Almoners, so they can assist as necessary with their basic needs. Read more here.
  • Racing Welfare – ready to respond: the charity announced a streamlined application process for the provision of Covid-19 hardship grants for anyone working in the British horseracing and breeding industry, in collaboration with key funders. Last week, Simone Sear, Director of Welfare spoke on the Luck on Sunday show to highlight other ways in which Racing Welfare is ready to support any of racing’s people during the coronavirus outbreak. You can watch this here. The charity has launched ‘Back to School’ grants to support its beneficiaries and has helped thousands of racing staff during the pandemic.
  • Racing to School: While visits were on hold, the education charity shared home-schooling videos and workbook activities online to help parents and to continue inspiring young people. Racing to School Ambassadors shared advice and keep fit information in video clips on social media. A new animated homeschooling video is below.
  • Palace House: Palace House closed temporarily but the team developed ’30 things to do at home’, a host of fun family activities linked to the venue and museum collections. Click here to take part! The team loaned their 3D printer to local engineering student Georgie Altham who used it to produce face masks for the NHS and Care Homes.

Racing Organisations

  • The British Horseracing Authority: launched an online learning hub: Racing2Learn which allows racing staff to earn continued professional development points remotely, including a course entitled The Role and Purpose of Community Engagement Activity in British Horseracing. Racing2Learn is home to the compulsory training module for all racing staff to complete ahead of visiting a racecourse, to support the safe return of racing for all involved.
  • The Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) and the Racing Foundation agreed an immediate combined £22m cashflow and hardship funding package to support British racing during the coronavirus outbreak. The organisations worked in conjunction with parties within British racing, with the objective of providing timely funds where they are most needed, whilst also ensuring the contributions are made in an accountable and sustainable manner which is in line with the objectives of both organisations.
  • Careers in Racing: the team continued to ensure their job board showed all live jobs available across racing, to offer the best assistance to those struggling to find work.
  • World Horseracing: the digital platform has gathered messages of support for NHS and Key Workers rom well-known racing faces into a video
  • Great British Racing (GBR): the sport’s promotional arm re-released Jockey Fit home workout videos, which can be shared from here. Working collaboratively with racing bodies, they created and shared messages of support for NHS and key workers.
  • Newmarket Covid-19 emergency fund: a group including Jockey Club Estates, Godolphin, The Racing Centre, Newmarket Racecourse and others continues to work with the local authority on a Covid-19 emergency response and fund, administrated by the Newmarket Festival committee. The group is ensuring vulnerable residents are receiving essential goods and prescriptions, while hospitality businesses are cooking and delivering hot meals through an extensive volunteer network. This work is in tandem with Racing Welfare’s efforts to help racing staff in the town. The fund has benefitted from a generous £50,000 donation from racehorse owner Bill Gredley. Read more here.
  • Weatherbys: the sport’s administrator printed PPE sewing patterns for volunteers in the Northamptonshire area to create scrubs for GPs & Hospitals. They launched a successful ‘Silks on Screens’ initiative in support of NHS Charities Together, where they produce owner silks phone screensavers on demand, in exchange for a small donation. Find out more and get yours here.

Jockey Club Estates in Lambourn mow giant NHS lettering into the grass next to their gallops.

  • Allertons: the video below shows how the team who usually produce racing silks worn by jockeys volunteered their time to make scrubs for NHS workers.
  • #GoRacingGreen and Unibet: arranged a special lunch and garden party for residents of Goodwood’s local care home during Glorious Goodwood, to brighten up the day for those most vulnerable. Read more here.

Trainers, Owners & Jockeys

  • Richard Hannon: pledged to donate £25 per winner to NHS Charities once racing resumes.
  • Mick Appleby: donated £2,000 from All-Weather Championships prizemoney to NHS Charities.
  • Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds: the ownership syndicate committed to donate a percentage of prizemoney to Racing Welfare once racing resumes; the amount will be subject to individual syndicate member agreement to opt in.
  • Frankie Dettori: donated 1,000 bottles of iPRO sports drinks to Newmarket Hospital staff as they work to treat patients during the coronavirus pandemic. The hospital which has 100 NHS staff and is now being used as a testing centre. “It’s my local hospital and we try to support the staff there. As soon as I’m given the green light, I want to drive the truck there and hand over the drinks personally. As a shareholder I thought it would be a good gesture to give some of our product to the brilliant NHS staff at the Newmarket Hospital.” Dettori also set up an appeal for the Italian Red Cross and is hoping to raise £100,000 for the NHS through the Equestrian Relief initiative. A new raffle in aid of NHS Charities Together, run by the Racehorse Lotto, will see one lucky winner enjoying a day as a racehorse owner.
  • Rebecca Menzies has launched the ‘Rainbow Applause Racing Club’ in support of NHS charities. All prize money that racing club horse Rainbow Applause (named by Rebecca’s Twitter followers) wins, plus any profits the club makes will be donated to NHS charities.
  • Tom Dunlop: son of trainer Harry, used his hour of allocated exercise each day during lockdown to run the all-weather gallops of Lambourn in order to raise money for the Lambourn Riding for the Disabled Association. The 14-year-old has now completed all 25 miles of the Jockey Club Estates but has continued his fundraising by moving to the private gallops of local Lambourn trainers. You can support Tom’s efforts via the link here.

Download and view the BHA’s return to racing document below:

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