Michael Steele/Getty Images
The 2020 Grand National has been cancelled, becoming the latest sporting event impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The race had been scheduled for April 4 at the Aintree Racecourse, but The Jockey Club has opted not to hold the event after advice from the British government to avoid mass gatherings, per BBC Sport.
PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images
Senior steward Sandy Dudgeon said public safety is the primary concern right now:
“Public health must come first. 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.”
Per CNN’s Luke McGee, the British government drastically revised their approach to combating the virus on Monday. As part of the new approach, emergency services will no longer be present during large gatherings.
The Grand National’s cancellation comes just one day after the conclusion of the Cheltenham Festival and the Gold Cup, won by Al Boum Photo. Organisers came under heavy criticism for letting the event go ahead in front of massive crowds:
The Premier League, the country’s top football competition, has been suspended since Friday, following the example of Europe’s other major leagues.
The Grand National is the most important event on the British horse racing calendar, and the 2020 edition was shaping up to be a historic one. Irish-bred Tiger Roll was gunning for a record-tying third straight win after becoming the first horse since the iconic Red Rum to win back-to-back at Aintree in 2019:
Red Rum remains the only three-time winner of the race, with victories in 1973, 1974 and 1977.