Ger Lyons is never short of a thing or two to say and the constant negativity which has been fired in racing's direction recently has certainly stuck in his craw.
It's 12 weeks since the Cheltenham Festival went ahead amid the early stages of the coronavirus crisis and rarely a day goes by without disparaging comments about racing.
Irish racing is back today at Naas having initially been slated for a June 29 return and Lyons is fed up of the poor light in which the €2billion industry is being painted as well as the stereotypical inferences being made about those at the coalface.
The Meath trainer always feared that it would be difficult to get racing restarted once it was cancelled on March 24 given the health implications of the pandemic but he refuses to feel bad about returning to his job despite the unprecedented scenario.
"I don't get the consistent negativity thrown towards us, I make no apologies for going back to work. I'm not embarrassed to go back to work; if that offends you "f**k off, I don't give a s**t.
"There are so many negatives being read and written and, 'Horsey people being looked after again'. That's not the case," Lyons proclaims.
"Our game has changed a lot since I started as a kid, we were cock of the walk back then and everybody loved it, same as they did snooker, and now we're just in that era where we're not flavour of the month.
"There's a lot of misrepresentation of our industry. They automatically think of tax exiles etc, etc whereas there's a lot of us out here just getting up every day and walking the roads and doing our jobs and keeping the show on the road.
"It's very much a business and there's a lot of misconceptions as regards our industry. It gets you down sometimes but I just put my head down and do my job, what people think of us is none of my business."
“We’re misunderstood at times, it’s an industry and we’re no different to any other industry and maybe it can sometimes come across as entitled. We were due back on the 29th and straight away whisperings were coming back that it’s June 8. I’m thinking, ‘Why do we always think it’s not us? Why do we always think they’re not talking about us?’ Maybe that’s why we’re not liked as much as you want to be liked.”
In essence, the Irish Flat season is just over five months long so Lyons was itching to get back racing – he is ultra-confident that they can do so safely behind closed doors – and he believes other industries should also be moving on from lockdown.
“We’ve been off since last November, you’re off eight months and you’ve a very short window to do your job. While we’re working 24/7 at home, you’ve got the industry surrounding racing. People will be asking you to come and look at their yearlings soon even though we haven’t even raced our two-year-olds yet,” he says. “If we are allowed do our work and do it well like we do, the racing industry will flourish. For that I don’t apologise.
“You listen to some people that will always have a gripe with you but I just believe they misunderstand it.
“They see us as getting handouts from the Government but don’t forget what we put back in and what we bring to the table. As long we all get back and do what’s normal to us, the sooner we get back up and running again.
“Shutting the airports down and shutting the country down seems to have worked but how long is that viable? Everybody should be getting back to work and you’re in the danger zone of people getting used to this.
“As the Taoiseach (Leo Varadkar) said the other day, there’s no free money and you’ve all got to roll your sleeves up and get back. It’s easy to stop us as a nation, forgetting the racing industry, but getting back up to work is hard and that’s proven the case. Getting everybody back into the frame of mind from Netflix, from the routines that they’re in. We’re lucky that we’ve been up every morning doing what we do.”
The Glenburnie supremo also sees racing’s return and the quality fare at its disposal as “an opportunity for the industry” to lure people back.
“If you turn on your racing in the initial three weeks, you’re going to be met with proper competitive sport, proper horses, the real deals going out getting their first run in before Classics like the Derby and the Oaks so it’s going to be proper racing,” he says.
“If you’re a connoisseur of the sport, you’re going to love it. If you’re new to the sport, sit back and enjoy it and if we can pick up new spectators that’d be brilliant, it’s a great opportunity.
“It’s going to be very competitive fare and it’ll make for a good showpiece for the industry and that’s the selling point. The racing is the shop window for the rest of the industry and this will be as good a shop window as you’re ever going to see.”
The Kiltale handler harbours hope that “we’ll all go back a tad differently rather than going back into the same rat race and just getting onto the hamster’s wheel again” when the fog from Covid-19 eventually lifts.
One thing that won’t change, however, is his thirst for winners and the Group One-winning trainer feels that “this is probably the best year quality-wise” in terms of his yard as he hopes to scale the heights which saw him notch a career-best 72 winners in 2017.
That tally helped to propel stable jockey Colin Keane to champion Flat rider and the pair will hope to frequent the winner’s enclosure once again, although he knows the quality of opposition that awaits.
“My attitude will never change with regards to training winners. If I’m not training winners, that’s in my DNA, and if I’m not enjoying training winners, I wouldn’t do the job. If my blood wasn’t rushing every time I had a runner, I wouldn’t do the job. I’ve wrote names beside races and the first three weeks we have covered because we have every horse in the place ready to go. Whilst they’ll all improve for the day away, they won’t lack for fitness.
“What we’re walking into, it’s going to be very competitive. The maidens will be something to appreciate. The first few winners will all be proper horses. It’s going to be competitive stuff.
“I’ve a lovely bunch of horses, a lovely array of horses, the quality has increased year on year and this is probably the best year quality-wise so I’m very much looking forward to getting going. We’ll have our amount of winners and hopefully they’re good winners.”
Irish 2,000 Guineas favourite Siskin leads the charge this year for Lyons as the son of First Defence bids to maintain his unbeaten streak in the Curragh Classic but Lyons is unlikely to be there watching any of his team for some time.
“I’d love to go but I won’t. They’ve asked for the less legs on the ground the better and I have three assistants and they’re well able and there’s no owners there,” he says. “While I’m allowed go racing, I’ll probably go down and look at the Guineas from the end of the track but I don’t want to flood the place when I’m not needed.
“The less bodies on the ground the better and I’ll partake in that.
“My job is done here, once the horse goes racing, I’m out of the equation, I don’t affect the situation so I leave them do their job. Lockdown or not, I’d stay away quite a bit and only go when it suits me to go and when I’m needed. I wouldn’t go and dilute the situation.”