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Horse racing on Coronavirus alert ahead of Cheltenham Festival and Grand National

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust has confirmed that an industry steering group has been put into place in order to consider the possible implications of the coronavirus ahead of the upcoming Cheltenham Festival and Grand National meetings.

Rust said: “We have an industry group in place that has been and continues to work on the potential impact of the coronavirus on the horse racing industry as a whole.

“The BHA executive met with the team at Cheltenham Racecourse on Monday morning to discuss final plans for the Festival, and the coronavirus was discussed at that meeting.

“In terms of potential ramifications for the Festival, any decision that impacts on it taking place will not be a decision that racing makes, but rather the Government.

“In the event that the Cheltenham Festival was postponed, either in its entirety or in part for any reason, there are contingencies already in place to re-stage it later in the season.”

The two biggest events in the horseracing calendar over the coming weeks are the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National, meetings which attract tens of thousands of people. While many big sporting events have been postponed – especially across Asia – the virus appears to be spreading rapidly throughout Europe, Italy just one nation which is taking action with six top-flight football matches being played behind closed doors.

As things stand the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is going ahead as planned, however the 2001 Cheltenham Festival was cancelled due to the foot-and-mouth epidemic and the BHA is being prepared for a possible decision regarding this year’s festival.

Nevertheless the Jockey Club remains optimistic that there won’t be any problems with the 2020 event, a spokesman for the organisation saying: “It remains full speed ahead for The Festival in a fortnight’s time.

“Racing continues to liaise closely with the Government to stay on top of the situation, and we are looking forward to four fantastic days of racing at Cheltenham.”