TAUNTON Racecourse hosted one of only two meetings to be staged behind closed doors and also the last before the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) made the decision to suspend all racing from March 18 until the end of April, in view of the Coronavirus pandemic, writes Richard Walsh.

This then marks the end of the season at Taunton, where they were scheduled to host their last meeting on April 22.

While those of us who enjoy a day at the races have been denied the chance of going along to watch any further action at Orchard Portman until the new season gets going on October 28, for those who are directly involved with the business it is much more serious.

David Pipe, whose yard up at Nicholashayne is one of the largest stables locally, said: “This is obviously of great concern for all businesses and employees in the industry; we very much depend on racing going ahead and we face a challenging and extremely worrying time.

“The consequence of this enforcement is that many of the horses that were in training are now on a break earlier than anticipated.

"The biggest problem with that is owing to the incredible amount of rain we have had over the past few months, there is no grass at present and the temperatures are yet to warm sufficiently…it is a perfect storm really.

“There are some horses that will remain in training with a view to a summer campaign once it is deemed safe for racing to recommence.

"When that decision is made we want to be ready to go immediately.”

Pipe went on: “I understand that everything must be done to keep the spread of the virus manageable for the National Health Service and also protect those people most gravely at risk.

"This is of paramount importance and we continue to follow all government guidelines.

“The cancellation is frustrating as the season traditionally ends on the last Saturday of April and therefore the current campaign is effectively over.

“We were enjoying a fine season with 64 winners on the board, while we were in a very good ninth place in the trainers’ championship.

"When you consider the numbers at our disposal it was a tremendous effort; many will be unaware that we sent out more winners than the likes of Colin Tizzard, Jonjo O’Neill, Donald McCain and co, despite considerably fewer runners.

“I was particularly proud of our winners to runners ratio this term.

"Indeed, with 49 per cent of the horses to have run for us during the season winning at least one race, we boasted a strike rate higher than any other stable in the top 10 of the championship - Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls included.

“We remain extremely grateful to our tremendously loyal owners for their continued patronage and hope for even wider ranging support on the back of this strong showing next season and beyond.”

Looking ahead, Pipe concluded: “Going forward we have a very nice group of youngsters to look forward to next season and beyond, including the likes of Brinkley, Kepagge, Make Me A Believer, Martinhal and Induno to name but a few.

"They all displayed enormous promise in winning races this season and are among those to be excited about.”