This year’s Randox Grand National meeting will take place in its scheduled slot after Jockey Club Racecourses ruled out delaying the Aintree showpiece.
There had been calls from some parts of the industry to push back the fixture, which will run April 8-10, to the following week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his road map to lifting lockdown restrictions on Monday.
Non-essential retail, including bookmakers, is pencilled in for reopening on April 12 — two days after the National — meaning only punters with online accounts will be able to have a wager on what is the biggest betting race of the year.
Following talks with stakeholders, it has been decided there is not enough certainty around the plans, among other factors, to move the meeting with just six weeks to go.
Dickon White, who runs the Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree as the Jockey Club’s north west regional director, said: “Since the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday, we’ve consulted with various stakeholders and weighed up the pros and cons of attempting to delay the Randox Grand National Festival to a time when the country may have moved into ‘Step Two’ of lockdown restrictions lifting.
“We’ve reviewed multiple aspects, including people being at home and available to watch the racing and showcase our sport to the maximum audience; the impact on other racing fixtures in the UK and Ireland and feasibility of any delay; and the impact on hundreds of participants across 21 races at Aintree and beyond.
“We’ve considered whether there is any financial upside for the sport when all parts of such a move are accounted for; whether it is responsible to cause such a rush on betting shops just as they open again with a pandemic ongoing or if the Government intended for this to be more gradual; and whether we would disappoint fans by creating clashes with other sports events.
“This has been a really difficult time for the retail and on-course betting industry and we very much hope that retail outlets will reopen on Monday, April 12, but like so much in this pandemic, this is far from certain at this stage.
“The Prime Minister has been clear that timings for lifting restrictions in England are best case and not guaranteed, while already we know outlets will not be open in Scotland.
“With timings fluid and several downsides of delay, as well as some upsides that may or may not happen, there is not a solid enough basis to move one of the biggest racing fixtures in the calendar just six weeks out. Therefore, the three-day meeting will remain in its planned Thursday 8th to Saturday, April 10 slot.”
He added: “It has been interesting to listen to views on this and we are always happy to do so. The Randox Grand National is the People’s Race and it is a shame that those wishing to have a flutter this year will be limited to online and mobile platforms, rather than being able to drop into the bookies.
“With the national vaccination programme under way, including using facilities at Aintree Racecourse, we very much hope our way of life can return in the fullest sense just as soon as possible.”