Connections of Judicial can look forward to another good campaign with the smart sprinter when the time comes for a return to action.
The Julie Camacho-trained eight-year-old was last seen impressing at Lingfield in November, a victory which booked his ticket to All-Weather Championships Finals Day back at the Surrey track on Good Friday.
With racing being suspended in Britain from March 18 amid the coronavirus outbreak, that fixture did not take place, and like everyone in the sport, the North Yorkshire yard must now keep ticking over until a date for a resumption is given.
“Judicial was in great form and ready, we were very pleased with him in regard to going to Good Friday and looking forward to it. He’s been one of the horses we gave a couple of quiet weeks to, as he was pretty fit. He’s on his way back now,” said Camacho’s husband, Steve Brown.
“We’ll keep him at that sort of 85 per cent level and when we get something firm in sight we can just raise things a touch. Interestingly, it’s probably harder to make a plan for the better horses at the moment, as we don’t quite know what will be on and what won’t be on.
“We’re just in the lap of the gods really, but I’d rather have them at a certain level of fitness where we can push on in a two- or three-week period rather than be chasing them.
“They’ll have to deal with all levels, but that’s going on behind closed doors and we don’t quite know what is happening at this moment in time.
“I imagine they’ll want to cater for the handicappers first and then as things progress we might look at less experienced horses, novices and two-year-olds, in the next phase of it because obviously they will want to try to keep the possibility of incidents or accidents to a minimum.”
Coming as it did at six furlongs, the Lingfield success has potentially opened options up for the Judicial team, who runs in the familiar black and white colours of the Elite Racing Club.
Brown said: “I think a stiff five is his minimum nowadays, I would imagine in a normal year we’d have gone to Good Friday and then to Newmarket (Palace House), but I think his last run at Lingfield just explores the opportunity of going six with him.
“He wasn’t stopping and just looked to be happier just travelling within himself a little bit, whereas possibly now in the good five-furlong races he was just racing in top gear a touch and that becomes a bit disheartening for horses.
“So we need to be mindful of that and possibly try one or two different things we haven’t explored in the past. That might be the year we are in anyway. We’ll have to think on our feet a little bit, but we’re very pleased with him.”
Brown reported the Norton stable to be coping well with what is an unprecedented situation.
He said: “We’re all very well here, there’s been no issues and we’ve tried to run the stable normally – the owners and the staff have been first class.
“Not too much has changed, we adjusted the regime of the all-weather horses that have been running, they’ve had a break, and the other horses we were fitting in anyway, we’ve just tried to improve their fitness levels a little bit.
“They’re certainly not on full intensity, but we’re just making sure that they’re at a level whereby if we do get some clearance, we’re not too far away from being ready.
“It’s all a balancing act, it’s all very uncertain and it’s the same for everyone, but we’re trying to retain a sense of normality. It’s a dangerous thing if you let horses get too fresh, you just try to keep normality as best you can really, but obviously we’re all up in the air with it.
“We personally don’t like rushing horses, so we want to be at a level of fitness and the horses are probably 80/85 per cent fit. They’re probably two good pieces of work off being race-fit and that’s how we want to keep it as long as our owners continue to be happy with that.
“Hopefully for all the owners in the yard we can have a successful season, they have all been understanding in a very difficult time and owners are underpinning the sport at the moment without the opportunity of winning any money back.
“The longer it goes on, obviously the more difficult it becomes for owners to keep horses in training that aren’t racing.
“Unfortunately we can’t get clarity, because it’s a situation that is constantly changing. We hope in two weeks’ time things look a little bit more settled and there’s a possibility we could go racing sometime towards the end of May possibly.
“I think the BHA has done the right thing by not offering a date, things have to be right, everyone needs to be happy and I just think we need to be in a situation where we’re somewhere near ready to go as soon as we’re asked to.
“It’s a worldwide issue and racing pales into insignificance, we’ll all be happy for the whole situation to settle down and the world look something like we know it is.
“While we’re in lockdown we shouldn’t be racing. Everyone is being very sensible about it and I think racing behind closed doors racing is perfectly doable at the right time.
“It’s an extraordinary time, there’s no template for this – we haven’t seen it before and we hope we never see it again. So you’ve got to be open-minded and fluid in your thinking, and we need to see the bigger picture.
“I think as long as we proceed quietly, we’ll be fine. We just have to accept the situation we’re in.”