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Racing

MotoGP: Spanish Grand Prix becomes fifth race postponed over coronavirus

The Spanish Grand Prix has become the fifth race of the MotoGP season to be postponed because of coronavirus.

The race in Jerez was intended to be the start of the MotoGP season following the cancellation of the original season opener in Qatar.

Races in Thailand, the United States and Argentina have also been postponed.

Organisers said a new date for the Spanish race could not be confirmed until the worldwide coronavirus situation became clearer.

They added that a revised calendar would be published as soon as it was available.

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Sports News

Grand National cancelled due to coronavirus crisis after Boris Johnson announcement

The 2020 Grand National festival due to run between April 2 and 4 has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Jockey Club have released a statement in the aftermath of Boris Johnson’s announcement earlier today, asking people to avoid mass gatherings.

Renowned as the world’s greatest steeplchase and the biggest betting event on the racing calendar, this year’s race had been due to see Tiger Roll bid to join Red Rum as the only three-timer winner.

A statement from the Jockey Club read: “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regarding avoiding social contact and stopping non-essential travel, and its statement that emergency services are withdrawn from supporting mass gatherings from tomorrow, the Jockey Club has decided that it is no longer appropriate to stage the event.

“Jockey Club Racecourses, which runs Aintree and several of the UK’s leading racecourses, had been assessing the feasibility of running the world’s most famous steeplechase behind closed doors with minimal staff on site, but the latest government information on the measures needed to contain the virus have led it to believe this is no longer a viable consideration.”

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Since 1839 the race has run 172 times, only missing three years of the First World War (1916-18), five years during World War Two (1941-45) and the disastrous voided race of 1993.​

It was hoped the 40-horse, 30-fence, four-mile race – won last year by Tiger Roll – would be able to carry on behind closed doors.​

But following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new advice during his press conference on Monday afternoon, that was deemed impossible.​

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.​

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“We were working on a plan to stage the Grand National behind closed doors given its importance to the racing industry and beyond.​

“But following the new Government measures confirmed this evening to help to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, this is not a viable option.​

“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.”​

The race is usually watched by a global TV audience of around 600 million viewers and last year over £250m was bet on the Grand National race alone.​

The news comes as the Prime Minister recommending if people could work from home they do so.

He also advised that people should avoid going to the pub, restuarants or the theatre.

In the UK there has been 55 confirmed deaths because of coronavirus.

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Sports News

Grand National legend Tiger Roll loses out at Cheltenham Festival

Tiger Roll was unable to secure another famous win as he lost out at Cheltenham.

The two-time Grand National winner went off as a short-price favourite in the Glenfarclas Chase on Wednesday, but was unable to convert it into victory.

Easysland took the victory after going off at 3-1.

The six-year-old took the Cheltenham Festival's cross-country showpiece for France, trained by David Cottin and ridden by Jonathan Plouganou – although he was also another winner for JP McManus.

The Irishman bought Easysland after his impressive victory over this course back in December.

He pulled away from Tiger Roll with three fences left to jump and the gap could not be bridged, eventually pulling three lengths clear by the final fence and extended it to 17 lengths by the finishing post.

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With victory, Easysland prevented a Glenfarclas Chase hat-trick for Tiger Roll, who will now turn its attentions to emulating Red Rum and winning three consecutive Grand Nationals next month.

More to follow.

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Racing

Melbourne Grand Prix chiefs monitor coronavirus, leave race fate with government

Australian Grand Prix organisers are planning for the F1 spectacular to go ahead at Albert Park next month despite warnings from Victoria's health chief that "all options", including cancellation, would be considered in the event of an outbreak of the coronavirus in Australia.

Grand Prix boss Andrew Westacott on Wednesday acknowledged that the fate of the race, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to Melbourne, was in the hands of the federal government and the nation's top doctors.

Valtteri Bottas won the 2019 Australian Grand Prix for Mercedes.Credit:AP

The risks are low, says Westacott, but he accepts the AGPC and the sport of Formula One are just one part of a global medical jigsaw in which concerns over public health will ultimately dictate what decision-makers do.

"It's much broader than a question for us and F1. We take guidance from the chief medical officers in Australia and ultimately from government," Westacott said.

"Government and health officers will look at things medically and economically and assess risk. Everything we do in motor sport is risk assessment.

"We will take our guidance and lead from the health authorities and fall into line with their instructions. We have to be open-minded."

On Tuesday, Victoria's chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton told 3AW's Neil Mitchell: "If it’s a very mild pandemic, like the 2009 flu pandemic, then you don’t need really significant action.

“But if it’s severe and we need to do absolutely everything possible to reduce the peak, reduce the number of cases, then we have to keep all options open.

"These huge events are planned for months and months in advance and I think it would take some extraordinary activity of the coronavirus in Australia to cancel something like this at this stage.

“I think it’s almost certain to go ahead."

Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott, an authority in health security at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney, says it is impossible to say how to manage a major sporting event such as the Grand Prix as the coronavirus epidemic is such a fluid event.

"If it was just Australians attending the event, then it would probably be a negligible or no-risk event, but the issue we don't know is how the virus will spread and what will happen in the next couple of weeks.

"It's too early to make a judgement call because everything is moving too quickly. If the countries where the outbreaks have happened are able to contain them then it probably won't be too much of a problem, but we don't know what will happen.

"But there are ways to hold mass gatherings to minimise risk.

"You could have more room between seats so that people could maintain a distance of one to two metres. You can ensure that there is ready access to hand sanitisers throughout the area. And you can put on additional public transport so that people are not all going to be congregating in small areas."

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