THE HORSES are happy and thriving, as are the staff at Harper Lodge Farm during the current lockdown, so revealed Sophie Ralston in an exclusive interview yesterday with Solario Racing’s Simon Double.
Five-pound claimer, Sophie, who has been based at the yard a year and who has ridden 26 winners in total, including 10 last year, was very upbeat about how the staff have been coping with life under Covid-19. One of seven who live on site, she said “It’s like we’ve been in isolation together. It has brought us closer. If someone is going to the supermarket, they’ll ask everyone if they need anything which saves us going out unnecessarily. And we genuinely get on very well anyway but all of this has brought us closer.”
The 27-year-old jockey remarked that “because there isn’t the stress and pressure of racing, it’s relaxed, it’s laid back. And we’re more relaxed and laid back and I think the horses feel it and the horses are quite happy. You know happy staff, happy horses.”
Sophie was keen to emphasise that the lack of racing had actually been beneficial for some horses. “We’ve switched their routine a little bit so they’re not getting bored from doing the same thing every day and some of them are absolutely thriving off that.”
When asked what she had missed the most, her reply was unequivoval. “Racing of course and the thrill and buzz of racing. The novelty was great for a while but I miss it now and I’m really looking forward to it coming back.”
When asked if there was any apprehension in the yard about going back racing amid the coronavirus crisis. “No, everyone is positive and ready to crack on now, ” although she did say race riding without the crowds “will be weird without the atmosphere.” Sophie made an intuitive comment about the effect of racing behind closed doors on horses making their debut.
“For young horses running without the crowd, it’s going to be less scary for them. They might end up being really professional racehorses because they won’t get spooked first time out.”
Horses she’s looking forward to and hoping to ride in races included Solario Racing’s Spring Romance and Tropics. She described her victory on the latter back in June of last year at Chelmsford as her best moment in racing to date.
In terms of targets this year, she said: “I’d like to ride a double, two winners in one day” but added “If I could just carry on riding as many winners as I can. I want to get down to three pounds. That’s an aim, to get down to my three pound claim.”
When asked if the current health crisis had led to any funny moments at the yard, Sophie said “…because we have so little to talk about now, people are beginning to talk a lot of rubbish.” She giggled when relating that one member of staff had resorted to talking to crows!
Who was the lad or lass in question?
An interviewer couldn’t possibly name names!