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Grand National cancelled as Aintree card lost to spiralling coronavirus crisis

Grand National: meeting has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak
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The Randox Health Grand National, the world's most famous race, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak as it emerged on Monday night that the whole three-day Aintree meeting will not take place next month.

Jockey Club Racecourses, which owns Aintree, was working on plans to stage the race behind closed doors, but new government measures announced on Monday evening, whereby those in the UK were told to 'avoid non-essential contact and unnecessary travel', has brought about the decision to cancel the meeting.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said mass gatherings would no longer be supported by emergency service workers, and it was confirmed earlier on Monday that racing in Britain would go behind closed doors from Tuesday until the end of March at the earliest.

British racing to go behind closed doors from Tuesday

Tiger Roll was the 8-1 ante-post favourite for the £1 million race and would have bid for a historic hat-trick for Gordon Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud. Red Rum is the only three-time winner of the Aintree showpiece, successful in 1973, 1974 and 1977.

Sandy Dudgeon, senior steward of the Jockey Club, said: “The Randox Health Grand National festival was just three weeks away and it is very clear to us it will not be possible for the event to take place. 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.

“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.”

Coronavirus has claimed 55 lives in the UK according to the latest government statistics issued by the Department of Health and Social Care late Monday afternoon, with 1,543 positive cases from a total of 44,105 people to have been tested. 

Five-time champion jumps trainer Nicky Henderson said: “From racing’s point of view it’s a sad day as it’s a massive sporting event but at the same time it’s an extraordinary situation our country and the whole world is in."

He added to BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday morning: "We’re in a crisis that our generation has not known before. To lose the Grand National is sad for the industry and sport in general but we all appreciate the situation we’re under at the moment."

People in the UK are being encouraged to work from home where possible and avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and social venues with the government set to scale up testing for the virus in the coming weeks.

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Very sadly these are exceptional times and this is the responsible thing to do

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