CORK jockey Paul Townend believes it's a huge relief for everyone involved in racing that meetings in Ireland are continuing, even behind closed doors.
The Ladbrokes ambassador was recently crowned 'Top Jockey' at the Cheltenham Festival
"It will be very different being at the races behind closed doors but when you get out on the track it will be the same," the Lisgoold native explained. "I have been chatting to some of the jockeys in the UK and they don’t know what to do with themselves. Without racing a lot of them won’t be making any income. It’s tough on them.
"We are staying away from each other inside the weigh room. We get changed and leave straight away. I don’t think we are putting ourselves in any more danger racing behind closed doors then we are going about our day to day lives under the current circumstances."
Townend will be in action at Thurles on Saturday.
Thankfully I have three rides at Thurles tomorrow. I start on Karl Der Grosse (2.10pm) who is coming here off the back of a big layoff. He disappointed on his last run as well. He won a maiden well in Galway and then I pulled him up last year. If he can reproduce his best form he would have a little chance but horses like Jetz and Mary Frances bring a lot more recent form into the race. If we can get a nice run, it will let us know where we are going for the future.
"I then ride Cut The Mustard in a Grade 3 (3.10pm). She ran well at Navan the last day behind Sizing Pottsie who she takes on here again. I think the better ground here will suit her. It was very heavy at Navan that day.
"On paper, Zero Ten looks the one to beat but he’s coming off the back of a fall which isn’t ideal. Dunvegan has to be taken into account as well but he would prefer further I think. My horse has her chance but she will have to turn the form with Sizing Pottsie.
"Lastly, I ride Max Dynamite in the Beginners Chase (4.10pm). He has had two runs over fences. He came fourth both times but the step up in trip here will suit him. He is getting more confident over fences now and hopefully he can get off the mark here. It looks a nice opportunity for him. We hope he can reproduce his best flat form.
My best chance this weekend is probably Max Dynamite. He is classy individual if he can put it all together."
The Irish Grand National is also on the horizon.
"It will have a different look now with no English Grand National. Last year’s winner Burrows Saint is in it now as he would’ve been going to Aintree before this. We also have Acapella Bourgeois and Total Recall who are likely to go there as well. I haven’t made any decisions yet in terms of who I will ride.
"This day last week I was confident heading into the Gold Cup with Al Boum Photo in such good form. Whether he was going to be good enough or not, no one knew. We were happy with him and thankfully he duly obliged."
Townend retained the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
"Winning the Gold Cup for a second year was a very different feeling to the previous year. 2019 was just pure shock and I suppose this year he was a lot more fancied with more pressure on him. Last year he snuck in under the radar but was the talking horse this year.
"However, it felt every bit as good. It’s an amazing feeling. I certainly felt a bit more pressure this year going into the week but especially on Al Boum Photo. It’s the biggest race of the week and everyone was saying statistically he couldn’t win. The horse didn’t know that though and he is just so special.
"During the race itself we made a couple of mistakes, especially the first down the back of the second circuit. He hit that very hard and I had to just tell myself then to let the race happen rather than chase it. He got into a good rhythm then.
"It’s funny because although he made that mistake it was his jumping that got him into such a good position without having to work for it. We knew the race was going to be a lot more different to last year’s but we got the same result thankfully."
The East Cork man had a tricky start to the Festival, especially with the pressure of succeeding Ruby Walsh as the leading jockey.
"Obviously, I was gutted after the Tuesday. I went home, reflected on it for an hour, and started looking at the races for the next day. There was nothing I could do about it then. I didn’t look at any of the media and to be honest I didn’t have time. I was busy the next day and had a lot of homework to do. The house I rented didn’t have Sky Plus either so I couldn’t watch it back.
"Being crowned Top Festival jockey was huge. I actually didn’t realise it until afterwards. Every time I looked at the television Barry was riding a winner.
"To actually ride as many winners as him was huge for me and to crown it with the Gold Cup was amazing. Everything worked out in the end!"