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Will Cheltenham and Grand National Festivals be affected by Coronavirus?

There has been a massive amount of media attention over the rapidly-spreading coronavirus – more specifically the covid-19 variety – with over 86,000 cases being reported globally by Sunday afternoon and the international nature of this virus means that worldwide authorities are needing to react with speed, the result being that many large sporting events are being cancelled or postponed.

The big question is, could this affect racing in the UK? The short answer is, yes!

The worst affected country in Europe thus far has been Italy with over 1000 cases and as a result, Serie A football games are taking place behind closed doors, while the Six Nations clash between Italy and Ireland due to be played in Rome has been postponed indefinitely.

The Chinese Grand Prix due to be held on 19th April has been cancelled and leading bookmaker Paddy Power is going odds-on at 4/6 that the 2020 Olympics will be another casualty of the virus.

OK so we’re not at this stage yet in the UK but should the number of cases on these shores increase noticeably, then racing may well be affected.

Cheltenham officials have indicated that they expect the 2020 festival to go ahead as planned later this month and the BHA have also stated that there is no reason to develop an abandonment policy for any forthcoming meetings, however any decision will ultimately lie with the government.

Similarly, officials at Aintree have also indicated that there are no major concerns that the Grand National Festival will need to be cancelled or curtailed in any manner.

Running one (or both) of these festivals behind closed doors should the need arise would be preferable to the industry as a whole as opposed to a complete cancellation, however the balance sheets of the Jockey Club racecourses involved would take a battering as a result.

As things stand, there is no reason to panic and common sense should prevail. This virus is a potential killer but thus far the number of casualties has been tiny compared to other ‘potential killers’ such as flu and even the common cold!