Grand National-winning trainer Ted Walsh is among those who are backing the decision to cancel this year’s renewal of the Aintree spectacular because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Renowned as the world’s greatest steeplechase and the biggest betting event on the racing calendar, the National was officially called off on Monday evening following increased measures put in place by the UK Government in an attempt to tackle the rapid spread of Covid-19.
Walsh, who was the toast of punters across the land after teaming up with his son Ruby to claim Grand National glory with the heavily-supported Papillon in 2000 and was due to field second-favourite Any Second Now this year, admits losing the great race for the first time since the Second World War in 1945 is a huge blow for the sport.
However, the 69-year-old is able to see the bigger picture – a view put into further significant context when the decision was made by the British Horseracing Authority on Tuesday afternoon to cancel all racing as of Wednesday until the end of April.
Speaking before that announcement, Walsh said: “What will be will be. Racing is racing, and trying to keep the human race safe is far more important.
“It’s disappointing, but there are a lot more important things in this world than the English National.
“Racing will survive. When it comes down to it, the welfare of mankind is a hell of a lot more important than racing.”
Lucinda Russell’s One For Arthur became only the second Scottish-trained winner of the Grand National when striking gold in 2017 – and was due to attempt to regain his crown on Merseyside next month.
“I think everyone is feeling a bit flat, and more than anything I just find it really sad,” said Russell.
“We have to look at the bigger picture – and when you see what is going on around the country you can totally understand why they’ve come to this decision – but I suppose the first emotion you feel is a selfish one, and it’s just such a shame the National won’t be going ahead.
“One For Arthur is in great form – hopefully we’ll have him back to go again next season.
“In racing we are in this bubble, and I know from racing behind closed doors at Kelso on Monday (that) the general attitude of the people involved is to roll our sleeves up and carry on – but you do have to stop and look at what is happening outside of racing.”
The Grand National is one of the few major prizes to so far elude five-time champion jumps trainer Nicky Henderson.
The Seven Barrows handler feels officials were left with little option but to call off proceedings in Liverpool.
“From racing’s point of view it’s a very sad day – this is one of the biggest events of the year that goes worldwide,” Henderson told BBC Radio Four.
“But at the same time, we have to respect enormously the situation that our country and indeed the whole world is in as well.
“We are in a sort of crisis that we haven’t known before – not our generation anyway.
“To lose the Grand National is sad for the industry and the sport in general, but we all appreciate the situation we’re in at the moment.”
Definitly Red was considered a major contender for the race by Brian Ellison, but those plans are now up in smoke.
“It’s very disappointing, because we’ve been training the horse for the National all year,” said the Norton-based trainer.
Jessica Harrington’s Magic Of Light finished second to Tiger Roll last year, but the veteran handler is philosophical about the decision.
“What will be will be, and there’s nothing I can do to change it,” she said.
“The Governments have said what they have said, and I think they are doing the right thing. We live in a funny old world at the moment but we’ll all get over it – eventually.
“These are unprecedented times. We’ve coped with foot and mouth and things like that before – but this is different.”
Harrington attended the Cheltenham Festival last week, and on her return has placed herself in self-isolation.
“I’m just not blatantly going out everywhere, that’s all I’m doing,” she said.
“I’m just not doing things blatantly, and I think that is just sensible.
“You have to laugh. I’m over 70, so I think I’m just being sensible.
“None of us knows how this is going to pan out. We might know a bit more in the next two or three weeks – but like everything, it just needs time.”