With the coronavirus (COVID-19) expected to reach its peak in the UK in the next fourteen days, could we be heading towards a Government led decision by the Aintree Executive to hold the world’s greatest steeplechase behind closed doors?
Betfair Exchange punters, who recently dabbled in a “Will racing go ahead at the Cheltenham Festival?” market, are once again betting on a similar specials offering of “Will racing go ahead – Aintree 2nd April?”
April 2nd is of course the opening day of the Aintree Festival – Liverpool’s Day, and not the actual day of the Grand National itself. However, it is quite worrying for Aintree fans that the sharp minds that use Betfair believe NO is a 1.21 chance, and YES a 3.85 prospect. *Prices correct as of 12.03.2020.
If the medical experts are correct about the timeframe of the probable UK virus peak, then that only gives racing officials a one-week turnaround for the threat to be downgraded before the Aintree Festival is due to take place.
It is highly likely during the next couple of weeks that all sporting events will either be advised to hold them behind closed doors, or cancel them altogether. It is highly unlikely that these precautions will be scaling back just a week after the UK peak.
Generally sporting events around the world are being played behind closed doors, postponed or canceled as coronavirus continues to spread. Only two days ago, a racecourse in France- Hippodrome de Laval, announced that they would be hosting their next fixture with no more than 1,000 people allowed to attend.
If similar measures are adopted here by the BHA in the upcoming weeks, there is a distinct possibility that the 2020 Grand National may well still be run, but behind closed doors, overseen only by officials, press, owners, trainers and jockeys.
The Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival often gives us a few clues for the Grand National and it did so once again on Tuesday afternoon.
The Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned Kildisart performed the best of the horses that held National entries, finishing second by a neck to the eventual winner, The Conditional.
The eight-year-old, who currently sits at No. 37 in the National weights on 10st 5lb, saw his odds slashed in half from 50/1 to 25/1 after some bookmakers had assessed the outcome of the race. Paddy Power, however, are still offering 50/1.
His trainer, Ben Pauling told the Liverpool Echo: “He ran an absolute blinder.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything more.
“The ground probably wasn’t in our favour but we are thrilled with the horse. Now we can look forward to the rest of the season.
“That’s where he goes (to the Grand National) and we are looking forward to it.
“He has his own style but they (the Aintree fences) are not as stiff as they were. He will stay all day and we are hopeful.”
Sue Smith’s Vintage Clouds jumped well under Ryan Mania for the first two-thirds of the race before his hefty 11st 4lbs weight began to take its toll. But he bravely plugged on for eighth place.
If, and it’s a big if, he decides to have a go back over the unique National fences, then the popular Yorkshire grey should find his allocated weight of 10st 8lb an absolute doddle to carry around the course.