EVE Johnson Houghton is putting horse welfare first as she keeps her Blewbury string, near Didcot, ticking over following the suspension of racing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Oxfordshire’s leading Flat trainer for the last three years had been gearing up for the start of the season proper last weekend before it was shut down until at least the end of April.

Now her focus is on the well-being of her horses in preparation for when racing resumes in hopefully the not too distant future.

She said: “We have to keep on getting them out, so in a way it is good as it gives us something to do, but it is pretty stressful because we don’t know how long it will go on for.

“All the horses have to be fed and we need owners to keep paying bills, although I am lucky that I have good owners who pay their bills.

“It is stressful for everyone. I don’t think I am special – I am just telling it how it is.

“They are cantering every day with four lots. I am riding out two lots and I am very lucky because the staff mostly live on site.

“I am trying to keep everything together for the owners.

“It is a horse welfare issue – you have got to keep them going.

“We are custodians of horses – that’s what our job is. We have to keep looking after them properly.”

The Flat turf season was due to get under way at Doncaster last Saturday, and Johnson Houghton added: “I have a book for all my horses and I go through it in February. I had a few maybe not for Doncaster, but Kempton and other courses.”

Among Johnson Houghton’s plans that have been shelved are returning last year’s hero, Goring, to the All-Weather Championships at Lingfield on Good Friday, April 10 when he was due to joined by stablemate Kwela.

The Woodway handler had also intended to test out her Investec Derby entry HMS President at Epsom on April 22.

The son of Excelebration fuelled dreams of a crack at the premier Classic on June 6 when winning a Newcastle maiden in good style at the start of November.

She said: “We were hoping to run him at Epsom in the Derby trial and see where we were with him, but that plan has been put on hold.”