19 May 2020

Violet Hesketh and Mimi Wadham, who run WH Bloodstock from Hollington Stud in Berkshire, tell us about how they are managing – both personally and professionally – with the UK government’s lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

How is life at Hollington Stud ticking over?

Mimi We were quite fortunate in that lockdown arrived during our quiet season. We just have our yearlings at grass and two paddocks of jumpers on holiday.

The breaking wound up at the beginning of March so our breaker went back to work for a trainer in Lambourn. It’s fairly similar to this time last year but sadly without the odd pint after work.

What new measures have you brought in to deal with coronavirus and the lockdown?

Mimi Violet has been in charge of the yearling side of things while I have been overseeing things at the stud. We’re ordering feed well in advance as there’s a bit of a backlog.

At this time of year it’s mainly maintenance so lots of cleaning and painting. It’s not hard to social distance but just makes the work a bit lonely!

In light of the robust Inglis Easter sale, do you think an online-only auction could be held in Europe if needs must? 

Mimi If needs must, yes. It was certainly encouraging to see buyers embracing the technology and an online-only auction would definitely be preferable to no auction at all.

However, nothing really compares to viewing the horses in the flesh and getting a proper feel for them.

Do you foresee any changes to your pinhooking activity at the foal sales this year? 

Mimi That really depends how we get on at the yearling sales. We’ve got the best bunch we’ve ever had but in these uncertain times who knows what will happen?

That being said, if there’s still money in the kitty we will definitely be buying foals.

What positives do you think there are to draw on when we emerge from the crisis? 

Violet Crises such as this really make one appreciate what they have and to not worry so much about all the little things. I for one know the next time I spend a standard evening with friends, go racing or have a good sale I will appreciate it all the more.

Another positive is that I haven’t put on a losing bet for nearly a month…

On a personal level, how are you keeping yourself busy during lockdown?

Violet Aside from work I’ve recently got into running. I was nominated to do the 5k and donate £5 towards the NHS and have since been upping the distance and haven’t given up yet.

My cooking skills have slightly improved and I try to pass the time by baking. However, it’s quite like Russian Roulette: one day its delicious banana bread the next it’s a loaf of bread so dense it would be best used as a dumbbell.

Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?

Violet I love Masterchef so that has kept me going and I would highly recommend reading Adam Kay’s This Is Going to Hurt which, as well as being very funny, is a stark reminder of how hard the NHS works for this country.

What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?

Violet As mentioned earlier, we believe we have the best bunch of yearlings we’ve ever had so that keeps us positive and excited. We sold a lovely filly by Sea The Moon [out of Marisa] in Book 1 last year to Liz Crow and we’re really looking forward to seeing her run.

We also broke in some very nice yearlings this year, including a Mastercraftsman colt purchased by my sister for a syndicate of family friends set up in memory of our father. He is now in training with our good friend Tom Ward and so far the reports are very positive. I believe he has been named Afta Party.