Aintree and the coronavirus – Any risk to the Grand National?

Last Updated 2 weeks ago | Commercial content | 18+

The global spread of the coronavirus continues to threaten any and all major sporting events and Aintree is one of them.

Cheltenham Festival was green-lighted despite growing fears over the spread of the coronavirus, but what of Aintree next month?

The Grand National Festival is scheduled to run from Thursday April 2nd for three days, with the main event – the Randox Health Grand National on Saturday 4th.

Aintree Grand National

RACING-ENG-NATIONAL Jockeys ride their horses after starting the Grand National Handicap Chase horse race on the final day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, north west England on April 6, 2019. Tiger Roll put his name alongside legend Red Rum on Saturday winning back to back Grand Nationals in stunning style. The 4-1 favourite, superbly ridden by Davy Russell, took up the running at the last fence and although 66-1 outsider Magic of Light came back at him the nine-year-old had enough to spare to emulate Red Rums feat in 1973-74. Oli SCARFF / AFP

Cheltenham fears allayed

The Cheltenham Festival – taking place from Tuesday March 10th to Friday March 13th – is one of Britain’s flagship race meetings. It joins Aintree’s Grand National Festival and Royal Ascot in June as the standouts in the calendar.

Fears about Cheltenham being cancelled have rightfully surfaced in recent weeks, with Six Nations games called off and racing in France already having taken place in some instances behind closed doors.

More than 250,000 racegoers will descend on the Cotswolds next week for Cheltenham and the British Horseracing Authority has been forced into considering the prospect of a late call-off.

These fears have been lowered significantly however and it appears that Cheltenham is going to go ahead.

Government’s action plan in place

The UK Government has released an action plan which states that although public gatherings – such as sporting events – could be restricted for up to 12 weeks, there are no ‘immediate plans’ to introduce this at the current time.

Any immediate change in that status would potentially have an impact on Aintree in April.

Westminster’s action plan confirms: “Action that would be considered could include: population distancing strategies (such as school closures, encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large scale gatherings) to slow the spread of the disease throughout the population, whilst ensuring the country’s ability to continue to run as normally as possible.”

Officials at Aintree will be keeping a very close eye on developments, just as those at Cheltenham have been forced to do recently.

Too early to make a call

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the threat of coronavirus to Britain as “increasingly serious” though he was also keen to stress the Government and the health service are “well-prepared”.

Major sporting events, given the levels of pre-planning and logistics involved, are of course being vigilant.

Hancock was asked directly if next month’s London Marathon could be a casualty and the minister has urged caution in the short term – something those at Aintree will be reading with interest.

“It’s far too early to be able to tell in that instance,” he told the BBC in regard to the London Marathon, which is slated for April 26th.

“What we can say for sure is that right now, we do not recommend the cancelling of mass events, and schools as well should not be closing unless there is both a positive case and the school has had the advice to close from Public Health England.

“So right now, as long as you wash your hands more often, that is the number one thing you can do to keep you and the country safe.”

In the event you don’t feel safe to attend the event, or the Aintree Grand National is planned to go ahead without the crowds, make sure you’re ready to watch from home on desktop or mobile. See your Grand National Live Streaming Options here:

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