Aintree urged to wait a week

Last Updated 2 Mar 2021 | By Enda McElhinney | Commercial content | 18+ | Play Responsibly | T&C Apply | Wagering

Leading figures in the racing industry are supporting the idea of pushing this year’s Aintree Grand National back by a week until after the proposed reopening of betting shops in England.

Such a move could potentially deliver a significant boost to the racing industry coffers.

Easing of restrictions imminent

The Grand National is slated for Saturday April 10th, with the three-day Aintree meeting beginning two days earlier on Thursday 8th.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined his plans to reopen non-essential retail, including betting shops, in England on April 12th as the country begins to ease Covid-19 restrictions under the new roadmap to exit the pandemic.

The Grand National holds mass appeal to the UK public, ensuring the Aintree showpiece is routinely the source of the single biggest betting day of the year as it attracts punters the length and breadth of the country to have their stakes in the world’s most recognised steeplechase.

A possible swap with Ayr’s Scottish Grand National, currently scheduled for April 17th, has been put forward as one possible solution.

Trainers getting behind date change

Evan Williams, trainer of Welsh Grand National hero and leading Aintree contender Secret Reprieve, says the authorities should do right by the sport of racing, even if that means some scheduling and logistical upheaval.

“As long as the Grand National is held that’s the main thing, but we all have to look at the big picture,” Williams said. “If we involve as many people as we can, getting them watching and betting on the race, it has got to be something that is a positive for the whole sport.

“Ultimately, whatever is best for the Grand National is best for the sport and that should be all that matters. I think we should be trying to get as many people supporting it in as many ways as they can.”

Nigel Twiston-Davies has trained Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002) to win the great race and the Naunton handler is responsible for this year’s potential Grand National top-weight Bristol De Mai.

He’s been putting his weight behind the idea of a move for the Grand National Festival, in the extenuating circumstances.

He said: “It can’t do any harm at all, can it? I think it would give the whole thing a bit of life. In fact, I think it’s a very good idea and, yes, I think it’s something they should do.”

Aintree Grand National

Horses and riders (R) in the The Gaskells Handicap Hurdle race go past the main stage during the final day of the Grand National Festival horse racing meeting at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, northern England on April 14, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Jason ROBERTS @SCANPIX

‘Once-a-year’ punters considered

Last year’s Grand National was a victim of the pandemic, officials forced to cancel the meeting as it came right at the beginning of the initial lockdown period in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The 2021 Aintree Festival is set to take place behind closed doors, with the lack of spectators on the racecourse seemingly paving the way for a possible date-change given that it dramatically reduces the possible logistical repercussions of such a move for the Merseyside area.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) in Britain suggests the Grand National remains a unique event in the sporting calendar, attracting a large number of one-time only punters to have their annual indulgence in racing.

“Ensuring the once-a-year punters are able to pop into their local bookies to have a flutter, supporting their local high street, on the world’s most famous horse race would help make the Grand National a truly national celebration as we begin to reopen the economy,” Dugher said.

“It would ensure that we engage as many people as possible in this great British event, showcasing the fabulous sport of racing.”

Neither the British Horseracing Authority nor Aintree have made any public comment on the possibility of moving the Grand National to April 17th.

Whether betting online or potentially at the betting shops, see the latest Grand National Runners info right here.

Enda McElhinney

Enda McElhinney is a racing writer with a growing portfolio of work on both British and Irish racing, with a particular fondness for National Hunt racing. While he acknowledges there have been many great runners; there has only ever been one Denman.

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