It’s the news that all horse racing fans were dreading, but probably expecting: the BHA has announced that all UK racing will be suspended until the end of April at the earliest.
It means that the Grand National, scheduled to take place at Aintree on April 4, will now be cancelled indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday March 18, the government announced a raft of plans to combat the spread of COVID-19, and these included an advised ban on mass gatherings and social functions – a result of which the Jockey Club has confirmed they deem it ‘no longer appropriate’ to stage the National.
It was also confirmed that staging the race behind closed doors – a Plan B that was reportedly being worked on by organisers – is also off the table due to the medical resources required to make that happen.
The Jockey Club’s senior steward, Sandy Dudgeon, said:
“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.”
Some 60,000 people would have crammed into Aintree to watch the showpiece occasion in addition to a televised audience in excess of 500 million people. They would have been hoping to see Tiger Roll emulate the great Red Rum by winning three editions of the Grand National, while simultaneously looking to make history by becoming the first horse to win three in a row.
This will be another huge blow for the betting industry, with £300 million wagered annually on the race – roughly 1% of all racing bets placed in the year.
Racing the Latest Casualty of COVID-19 Cancellations
Originally, the BHA had planned to keep racing on the go by moving meetings behind closed doors on UK soil.
That was the plan for approximately 48 hours, anyway, until the government moved the goalposts and advised against even low-key sporting events being held.
And so the BHA has announced that all racing will be suspended as of Wednesday March 18, with a possible return date of late April mooted. However, that will remain under constant review as the situation unfolds.
The BHA board had been consulting with a number of professionals, including medical advisers, and it had been their opinion that racing could go ahead behind closed doors – until the government’s intervention.
Nick Rust, the chief executive of the BHA, said:
“There will be difficult months ahead for many of us. We need to focus now on ensuring that we can continue to look after our horses as the virus affects the thousands of participants and staff who dedicate their lives to caring for animals.
“We need to do what we can to support businesses inside and outside racing and the many people whose livelihoods depend upon this £4 billion industry.”
A full list of the meetings affected are shown in the table below, this is subject to change.
|Date||Jumps Meetings||Flat Meetings|
|Wed 18th March||Haydock||Ludlow|
|Thu 19th March||Chepstow||Huntingdon|
|Fri 20th March||Musselburgh||Newbury||Lingfield||Newcastle|
|Sat 21st March||Bangor||Kelso||Lingfield||Southwell|
|Sun 22nd March||Carlisle||Exeter|
|Mon 23rd March||Wincanton||Lingfield||Wolverhampton|
|Tue 24th March||Hereford||Hexham||Southwell|
|Wed 25th March||Market Rasen||Newcastle||Kempton||Southwell|
|Thu 26th March||Ffos Las||Warwick||Lingfield||Wolverhampton|
|Fri 27th March||Fontwell||Wetherby||Lingfield||Newcastle|
|Sat 28th March||Stratford||Uttoxeter||Doncaster||Kempton|
|Sun 29th March||Ascot||Doncaster|
|Mon 30th March||Ludlow||Bath||Newcastle|
|Tue 31st March||Southwell||Lingfield||Musselburgh|
|Wed 1st April||Market Rasen||Wincanton||Lingfield||Wolverhampton|
|Thu 2nd April||Aintree||Taunton||Chelmsford||Southwell|
|Fri 3rd April||Aintree||Sedgefield||Kempton||Leicester|
|Sat 4th April||Aintree||Chepstow||Lingfield||Wolverhampton|
|Sun 5th April||Ffos Las||Plumpton|
|Mon 6th April||Kelso||Redcar||Windsor|
|Tue 7th April||Exeter||Southwell||Pontefract|
|Wed 8th April||Catterick||Kempton|
|Thu 9th April||Hereford||Wetherby||Bath||Chelmsford|
|Fri 10th April||Chelmsford||Lingfield|
|Sat 11th April||Carlisle||Haydock||Kempton||Musselburgh|
|Sun 12th April||Ffos Las||Market Rasen||Southwell|
|Mon 13th April||Chepstow||Fakenham||Redcar||Wolverhampton|
|Tue 14th April||Warwick||Lingfield||Newmarket|
|Wed 15th April||Cheltenham||Beverley||Kempton|
|Thu 16th April||Cheltenham||Newcastle||Newmarket|
|Fri 17th April||Ayr||Exeter||Bath||Newbury|
|Sat 18th April||Ayr||Bangor||Brighton||Newbury|
|Sun 19th April||Stratford||Wincanton|
|Mon 20th April||Hexham||Kempton||Pontefract||Windsor|
|Tue 21st April||Ludlow||Sedgefield||Yarmouth||Wolverhampton|
|Wed 22nd April||Perth||Taunton||Catterick||Epsom|
|Thu 23rd April||Exeter||Perth||Beverley||Chelmsford|
|Fri 24th April||Chepstow||Perth||Doncaster||Sandown|
|Sat 25th April||Sandown||Doncaster||Haydock|
|Sun 26th April||Salisbury||Wetherby|
|Mon 27th April||Ayr||Lingfield|
|Tue 28th April||Ayr||Brighton|
|Wed 29th April||Ascot||Brighton|
|Thursday 30th April||Chelmsford||Musselburgh|