Winning return blew away cobwebs, says jockey Sullivan
June 02 2020 01:15 AM
Jockeys ride the horses out of the starting stalls at Newcastle Racecourse in United Kingdom yesterd
Jockeys ride the horses out of the starting stalls at Newcastle Racecourse in United Kingdom yesterday. (Reuters)

Reuters/ Newcastle, United Kingdom

Jockey Jimmy Sullivan was pleased to blow the cobwebs away after steering Zodiakos to victory in the 1pm race at Newcastle yesterday — the first competitive sporting action in England since the new coronavirus pandemic struck the country in March.
A thrilling finish was not greeted by the usual roars from the crowd though with no fans present — one of the government’s criteria for the return to some semblance of sporting normality.
Sullivan, like the 45 other jockeys involved in the 10-race card at Newcastle, had to have a temperature check on arrival and adhere to strict social-distancing rules.
He also wore a face mask during the race, another mandatory requirement as racing returned for the first time in 76 days.
“I’m blowing a bit as obviously it’s the first time I’ve ridden in a race for a while,” Sullivan, who delivered the 22-1 winner, told Sky Sports Racing. “Hopefully that would have blown the cobwebs away.
“In this heat today, riding in the mask, it is very warm and after pulling up I pulled it down a little just to get a few breaths in. It wasn’t too bad, though. It’s manageable and it’s the sort of thing that in a week you won’t even notice it.”
Champion jockey Oisin Murphy, also in action yesterday, said he was proud that horse racing was leading British sport back as the government loosens the coronavirus lockdown.
“It’s time to return and I really feel we can come back in a safe way in a way the public can be proud of,” he said.
“I’ve never ridden behind closed doors but when you’re under pressure at a big meeting you tend to block the noise out anyway. It might be different for (Italian great) Frankie Dettori but I’ll survive no problem.”
Martin Cruddace, CEO of ARC racing who own the course, said, “Everything has gone well so far. We’ve left no stone unturned. We are the first live sport on so there is incredible pressure. But there is enormous privilege too.
“If you had put a heart-rate monitor on me before the first race it might have been in the red zone. It’s calmed down now.”
No horse-racing has taken place for 76 days and the resumption was in a tightly-controlled environment.
Access to the course was limited and everyone present had to have completed a medical questionnaire, have a temperature check on arrival and stick to strict social-distancing rules.
British horse-racing is estimated to contribute around 4bn pounds ($4.96bn) into the economy, with 20,000 people involved directly or indirectly in the industry.
As other sports prepare for a return, horse-racing will take centre stage this week with other courses opening up and this weekend Newmarket hosting the prestigious 2,000 Guineas.

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