HARRY Whittington says a ‘most unbelievable Cheltenham Festival’ is helping his yard stay positive as horse racing continues to be gripped by the coronavirus pandemic.

Just two weeks ago, the trainer, whose is based at Sparsholt, near Wantage, was celebrating a first winner at the pinnacle of National Hunt racing when Simply The Betts triumphed in the Stable Plate Handicap Chase.

Having seen Saint Calvados finish second in the Ryanair Chase 90 minutes earlier, and Rouge Vif come third in the Arkle on the opening day, it proved a meeting Whittington will never forget.

Racing went into lockdown soon afterwards and although these are proving tough times for everyone, those Festival memories are providing a great source of comfort for the stable.

“It really was the most unbelievable week at Cheltenham,” Whittington said.

“Whether racing should have gone ahead is one that divides opinion, but luckily for us it did – and I am certainly glad it did.

“We are all still on a bit of a high after it to be honest.

“It just shows the highs and lows everyone can have though, because now there is no racing in this country.”

Whittington feels fortunate the majority of the National Hunt season has been completed.

Although Aintree has already been cancelled, that will not have huge consequences for his yard with only one of his stable stars set to run there.

“The situation is very worrying, especially for those in our industry who are flat trainers or who rely on summer jumpers,” he said.

“We do have a handful of summer horses that we try to keep the books ticking over with, so we are carrying on with them for now and will have to see when we get a further update on the sport whether they stay in training or if we need to put them out in a field.

“But primarily we have winter horses.

“Most of them have either finished their season or were coming to the end of it.

“Our season was really geared around getting the better horses to Cheltenham and we did that.

“We had our first winner there which hopefully proves we know what we are doing – we will hold on to that and keep watching the replays.”

With the knock-on effects of racing’s closure now starting to hit home, Whittington is trying to ensure he can look after his staff.

“I am working around the clock to try to make sure we can find jobs for them,” he said. “It’s going to be tough, but I am very hopeful we can look after the vast majority.”