The 2020 Grand National has been cancelled over the coronavirus pandemic, the Jockey Club announced late on Monday.
It is the centrepiece of the annual three-day meeting at the Aintree course near Liverpool, but this year’s race – which was to be held on April 4 – has been scrapped.
“Following the government’s new public health guidance regarding avoiding social contact and stopping non-essential travel, and its statement that emergency services are withdrawn from supporting mass gatherings from tomorrow, the Jockey Club has decided that it is no longer appropriate to stage the event,” a statement said.
Jockey Club Racecourses, which runs Aintree and other leading UK racecourses, had been looking at the possibility of running the Grand National behind closed doors with minimal staff on site.
But it said the latest government information on the measures needed to contain the virus led it to believe this was “no longer a viable consideration”.
Sandy Dudgeon, senior steward of The Jockey Club, said: “The Randox Health Grand National Festival was just three weeks away and it’s very clear to us it will not be possible for the event to take place. Public health must come first.
“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.”
It may also lead to a change in policy at the British Horseracing Authority, with the national governing body having said earlier on Monday that racing would carry on behind closed doors after the sport was widely criticised for allowing more than 250,000 spectators to attend last week’s showpiece Cheltenham Festival.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky Derby, the first of North American horse racing’s “triple crown”, has been postponed until September, local media reported.
Television station WDRB and the Louisville Courier Journal said the race will now take place on September 5 instead of May 2 as scheduled.
The Kentucky Derby regularly draws close to 150,000 spectators.