Coronavirus: Horse racing behind closed doors in Britain until end of March

Cheltenham Gold Cup
68,859 people attended Cheltenham on Friday when Al Boum Photo won the Gold Cup

Horse racing in Britain will be held behind closed doors from Tuesday until at least the end of March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Racing in England had continued despite the outbreak, with the Cheltenham Festival recording an attendance of 251,684 across four days last week.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said it plans for scheduled meetings to go ahead, but some may be cancelled.

The Grand National, scheduled for 4 April, was cancelled on Monday.

Tuesday's meetings at Taunton and Wetherby will be the first affected by the behind-closed-doors announcement.

Races in Scotland, including Monday's meeting at Kelso, have already been held behind closed doors because of the Scottish government's guidance against gatherings of more than 500 people.

Nick Rust, chief executive of the BHA, said: "The restrictions we are putting in place to close racing to spectators and limit attendees will reduce demand on public services.

"We also have a range of measures in place designed in response to the government's guidance on public health and we will continue to update these as appropriate.

"We acknowledge that today's decision will also impact on local businesses, especially hotels and restaurants, who are struggling at this time.

"We are following the government's advice to strike a balance between protecting public health and maintaining business activity, and will continue to do so. We thank our customers and staff for their support."

Earlier on Monday, the BHA announced its headquarters had been closed until further notice because of suspected cases of coronavirus.

Racing in France has also been suspended until 15 April.

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