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Grand National cancelled as British racing continues behind closed doors

17th March 2020 10:33 am GMT

The Jockey Club has confirmed the cancellation of this year's Randox Health Grand National Festival, while the rest of Britain’s horse racing calendar is set to continue behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jockey Club said that it was no longer appropriate to stage the event following the UK government's latest guidance regarding avoiding social contact, and its decision to withdraw emergency services from supporting mass gatherings.

“The Randox Health Grand National Festival was just three weeks away and it's very clear to us it will not be possible for the event to take place,” said The Jockey Club senior steward Sandy Dudgeon. “Public health must come first.

“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.

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“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.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the British horseracing season is set to continue behind closed doors from today.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), the Racecourse Association (RCA) and the Horsemen’s Group jointly agreed on Monday that all racing should continue without spectators initially until the end of March, and with restrictions on the number of attendees.

Race meetings at Taunton and Wetherby today will be the first in England to take place behind closed doors, with customers being asked to contact the individual racecourses for further details.

Horse racing had continued as normal last week with the Cheltenham Festival recording 251,684 attendees across four days of racing.

“Racecourses and racing yards are embedded in their local communities and we are acutely aware of our responsibilities to protect public health,” said BHA chief executive Nick Rust. “The restrictions we are putting in place to close racing to spectators and limit attendees will reduce demand on public services. We also have a range of measures in place designed in response to the government’s guidance on public health and we will continue to update these as appropriate.

“We acknowledge that today’s decision will also impact on local businesses, especially hotels and restaurants, who are struggling at this time. We are following the government’s advice to strike a balance between protecting public health and maintaining business activity and will continue to do so. We thank our customers and staff for their support.”

Race meetings are scheduled to be held across Britain every day for the remainder of the season although that looks increasingly under threat.

“The intention is for scheduled race meetings to take place wherever possible. However, the situation is very fluid at present and decisions may have to be made to cancel meetings,” said the associations in a joint statement.

“With race meetings due to happen every day, the aim is to agree a programme that is sustainable, in the light of possible staff absences, including in critical roles, in order to protect industry staff and support the wider effort to free up critical public services.”

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