The Jockey Club, the governing body of horse racing in the UK, has announced that the 2020 edition of showpiece event the Grand National Festival will not take place as a result of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The Grand National Festival had been due to run at Aintree Racecourse from 2-4 April, culminating in the race on 4 April, but the Jockey Club made the decision to cancel in response to new government public health guidance regarding novel coronavirus.
The government yesterday (16 March) urged people to avoid social contact and stop all non-essential travel, and also said that the emergency services would be withdrawn from supporting mass gatherings, including sports events, from 17 March.
As such, the Jockey Club decided that it would no longer be appropriate to stage the event.
Jockey Club Racecourses, the commercial division of the Jockey Club that runs Aintree and several of the UK’s major racecourses, had been assessing the feasibility of running the event behind closed doors. However, given the latest government advice, it was decided that this was no longer a viable consideration.
“The 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; public health must come first,” Jockey Club senior steward Sandy Dudgeon said.
“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 decision comes after the British Horseracing Association (BHA) yesterday also announced that scheduled racing events would continue to take place, albeit without spectators and with restrictions on the number of attendees, as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The temporary measures, agreed by the BHA, the Racecourse Association and the Horsemen’s Group, will come into effect from today and apply to all races in England, Wales and Scotland.