Star jockey Jye McNeil says not riding in trials and track work is only a small price to pay if it keeps racing going during the COVID-19 crisis.
McNeil is effectively housebound away from the races as one of the 25 jockeys in Racing Victoria’s self-isolation program, an extra layer of protection from coronavirus for the state’s best riders.
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Jockey Jye McNeil rides Aktau to victory in race 7, the Neds Mornington Cup, during the Melbourne Saturday Metro Races on Saturday, March 21. Picture: AAP Image/Supplied by Racing PhotosSource:AAP
“I definitely won't have that advantage (getting to know horses in track work),” McNeil said.
“It’s probably not the best part about being in the ‘Green group’, but it’s the safest place to be.”
One saving grace, however, is not having to set the alarm for 3.15am Tuesday– the main day for track gallops.
The segregation of jockeys could allow racing to continue should a rider test positive to the highly-contagious and rampant virus.
“It's always on your mind now isn't it,” McNeil said.
“If you're not washing them (hands) you're getting some germ buster or whatever they call it, a bit of sanitiser to keep yourself feeling clean.”
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The banter and added competition between riding ranks, since the designated group was moved out of the main jockeys’ rooms on race days, has been a nice distraction to the outside world.
“It’s the A-group versus the B-group,” McNeil joked.
“I think we (A-group) rode the winners of the first three races (last Sunday at Ballarat), so we’re making a bit of fun of it.
“You got to try and see the positives of some things I guess, you try and make it a little bit of fun when you can.”
Before Tuesday’s card at Geelong the A-group led 15-10 after three Victorian meetings.
McNeil has ridden more Victorian winners than any other jockey and sits fourth in the metropolitan premiership, trailing Craig Williams, Dwayne Dunn and Damien Oliver.
The 25 year-old, who topped 100 winners for the first time last season, scored his first and only Group 1 to date last October aboard Chris Waller-trained Kings Will Dream.
McNeil’s association with leading stables including Lindsay Park, Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, Anthony Freedman and Waller has propelled the young gun into the top-flight.
“It's a good place to be (fourth in metro premiership), hopefully I can stay there a little bit longer and build this season into next season and put the pressure on them (senior jockeys),” McNeil said.
Originally published asStar Victorian jockey warms to self-isolation
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