Grand National cancelled because of coronavirus pandemic

Grand National 2019
The Grand National Festival was due to take place from 2-4 April

The Grand National, due to take place on 4 April, has been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jockey Club said "it is no longer appropriate to stage the event" after the UK government advised against mass gatherings.

It said that running the race behind closed doors at Aintree was "no longer a viable consideration".

"Public health must come first," said Sandy Dudgeon, senior steward of The Jockey Club.

"We were working on a plan to stage the Grand National behind closed doors given its importance to the racing industry and beyond, but following the new government measures confirmed this evening to help to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, this is not a viable option.

"I know this is hugely disappointing news for the many people who work in our sport and the many millions who were looking forward to this year's event, but very sadly these are exceptional times and this is the responsible thing to do."

The world famous steeplechase attracts a worldwide audience of about 500m people.

Tiger Roll, who won the race in 2018 and 2019, was favourite for an unprecedented third consecutive victory.

More than 1,500 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, but the actual number of cases is estimated to be between 35,000 and 50,000.

Analysis

Cornelius Lysaght, BBC horse racing correspondent

As in so many other areas of life, the virus has dealt a body-blow to horseracing, which has had the Grand National at its centre since the race's inception in the 1830s; also to British and indeed Irish sport considering the Tiger Roll angle; to the betting industry which had been looking forward to another boom time; and to the economy of Merseyside given a notable boost by the event.

Clearly, opponents will be less unhappy.

It was going to be hard but possible for the race to take place, even behind closed doors, in the current climate until the latest restrictions were brought in.

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