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Racing in UK set to carry on behind closed doors

[LONDON] Racing in Britain is likely to carry on but behind closed doors, the sport's regulatory authority the British Horseracing authority said.

The sport attracted criticism for allowing the showpiece Cheltenham Festival to go ahead last week with over 250,000 spectators attending despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Many of the Cheltenham racegoers were Irish, which provoked a social media backlash in Ireland, but racing authorities saying they were following British government advice in maintaining the meeting.

However, with the Premier League football and other sports suspending their seasons, racing is to take measures of its own with the sport's top officials to meet with other interested parties later on Monday.

"Racing industry leaders are preparing to hold race meetings without spectators and to ensure that the competitors and participants attending only do so under strict conditions," read the statement.

"The sport's tripartite leadership, including racecourses, participants and the governing body, the British Horseracing Authority, will on Monday discuss an approach recommended by the industry's COVID-19 group.

"It is likely to mean that racing moves behind closed doors later in the week, initially until the end of March. Racing's fixture list will also be considered."

Should they agree to the end of March it would mean the three-day meeting at Aintree racecourse near Liverpool which climaxes with the Grand National on April 4 would provide a real test as it takes place in front of enormous crowds.

Interest would potentially be even higher this year as Irish runner Tiger Roll is bidding for an historic third successive victory -- Red Rum won three but not consecutively -- in the world's most famous steeplechase.

AFP