Coronavirus latest – Aintree Grand National hangs in the balance
As the Local MPs for Liverpool allude to a complete cancellation of the Grand National, Aintree Racecourse will likely remain tight lipped until Monday when the British Government is expected to update their strategy to stem the spread of Coronavirus. The strand, Covid-19, has wreaked havoc across the world and is showing very little signs of easing up, with a host of European countries taking drastic measures to stop the spread of the infection.
China, Italy, South Korea, Spain and France have all been severely affected as their countries enter ‘lockdown’ mode, while the UK’s death toll has now risen to 21. As a result, many major sporting events in football, cricket, golf, rugby union and formula one have all been suspended or postponed.
Racing stands alone at present and is continuing, but Irish racing will be behind closed doors until March 29, while Kelso’s meeting on Monday is closed for spectators. With the Grand National only three weeks away and the likelihood the pandemic will increase, there is every chance the people’s race will be affected.
Here are some scenarios on what could occur with Coronavirus and the Grand National.
The Race is postponed for this season
The most drastic and worst-case scenario for the Grand National would be that the great race would be postponed and not run until next year’s renewal in 2021.
While this scenario hasn’t occurred in racing yet, many sports are seriously considering this option, with rumours the Premier League could be declared null and void and the Masters unlikely to be rescheduled. However, this would be greatly damaging for not only Aintree, but the Horse Racing world.
This year’s renewal is set to be potentially history-making, with Tiger Roll bidding for a historic third win in a row, and upwards of 150,000 people were expected on Merseyside for the three-day meeting – not to mention the millions of viewers that would be drawn in.
The local community would be severely affected too as many rely on this festival for its major income, while owners, jockeys and trainers will all be gutted as some of their horses, who have been targeted for this race day, won’t get their chance in the limelight.
However, this remains a last resort and there have not been too many suggestions of this option taking place.
Run the race ‘behind closed doors’
One option which is perhaps the most possible is running the race without any spectators across the meeting, with only trainers, owners, jockeys, the grooms, media and senior personnel allowed on the track.
Ireland has already employed this measure from Friday, which saw an eerily quiet fixture take place at Dundalk, while the Champions and Europa League fixtures last week had their doors firmly shut to the public.
While this measure has had its support – Tiger Roll’s owner Michael O’Leary agreed this may have to be done – and would keep the historic bid and great race intact, there is no doubt its aura will be sucked out of it.
The crowd is the heartbeat of any sporting event, especially the National, and the lack of a roar from the spectators will certainly dent the adrenalin-fuelled spectacle. With the worsening of the disease, be prepared for a very different national.
Suspend the race until a later date
If the racing community was determined enough to keep Tiger Roll’s bid for history on track, there may be special dispensation to have the Grand National moved.
The London Marathon has already done this, with it now being moved to October 4th at the earliest, while the European football championships could follow the same suit. However, this is different and looks incredibly difficult to organise.
While the Racing world stops, it could be months before its back on. By then it will be the height of the summer, with major flat race meetings taking precedence and all the jumps horses on their holidays.
This could also pose a welfare issue and with all of these in mind, this option looks to be very unlikely, unless the pandemic miraculously stops spreading sooner rather than later.
If 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: