Aintree Coronavirus Risk: No crowd beats no race – O’Leary

Grand National Handicap

Photo by Rept0n1x is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

It may be four weeks until Randox Health Grand National Day but Eddie O’Leary is already considering the possible effects of the Coronavirus on the world’s greatest steeplechase.

The worldwide health scare threatens to cause havoc with upcoming sporting events if it cannot be contained.

The Aintree Grand National and the London Marathon are amongst events in April that the UK government may be forced to consider their position on.

O’Leary, racing manager to Tiger Roll’s owners Gigginstown House Stud, says postponing the National is a ‘non-runner’.

National in peril say bookies

According to a Betfair betting market opened this week, the Aintree spectacular is odds-on to suffer some interruption as a result of the Coronavirus.

Postponement, a behind-closed-doors staging or – worst of all – abandonment are all possibilities and O’Leary knows which he’d prefer to defer to in a worst-case scenario.

“I know it would be terrible for the British Horseracing Authority and for Aintree, their flagship event,” he said of potential disruptions.

“Should we lose everything? You can’t postpone it. Where would you put it? July? You can’t. Absolutely, I’d be all on for running it behind closed doors [instead].”

O’Leary admits that nobody is in a position to forecast what will happen but he warns that European sports are giving off strong indicators in the most affected areas.

“We’re in uncharted territory. It’s endemic in Italy and they’re playing the football matches behind closed doors, so evidently that’s a way forward if they [the BHA] want it.”

Delaying not an option

O’Leary’s hopes are of course that Tiger Roll will get his chance to win for a third successive year and in doing so forge a new chapter in Grand National history.

Gordon Elliott’s charge, like so many others holding Aintree entries, will be trained almost to the minute for this test.

The National’s position in the racing calendar is not by accident, with the spring slot ensuring safe and fair ground is the order of the day.

Delaying the race therefore becomes nigh-on impossible.

“If it came to it, you could have the Cheltenham Festival without the crowd as well. You can’t delay it. Where are you gonna put it? And these horses only have a short career. It’s not what anyone would want but if the choice is an unknown delay or behind closed doors, absolutely go closed doors.”

Crowds on stand-by

More than 200,000 people are expected to descend on Cheltenham racecourse this week for their four-day Festival, which appears likely to go ahead as planned.

Aintree in a months’ time will attract in excess of 100,000 spectators to Merseyside for the three-day Grand National Festival.

The thought of staging either gathering without spectators is a sobering one for officials at both racecourses but, given the
increasing cases of Coronavirus in the UK and elsewhere, it is become a very real consideration.

The BHA and Aintree have, as yet, declined to make any statements regarding the Grand National on April 4th, but they – along with everyone else – will be closely monitoring the sporting landscape in the coming days and weeks.

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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