The 2020 Grand National, due to take place on Saturday, April 4, has been cancelled after the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that people should avoid all unnecessary travel and contact with others.
The news will come as a massive blow to Gigginstown House Stud and Gordon Elliott, who had hoped to send Tiger Roll, fresh from his second place in the Glenfarclas Cross Country last week at the Cheltenham Festival, in pursuit of a unprecedented third successive victory.
The £1 million (€1.09m) four and-a-half-mile steeplechase is the biggest race in the British calendar in terms of prestige with an estimated betting turnover of £150m and watched by a worldwide audience of 600 million.
With the option of running the race with spectators off the table as racing announced that it would be going behind closed doors, the Jockey Club, owners of Aintree, confirmed last night in a statement that the race was off.
"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regarding avoiding social contact and stopping non-essential travel, and its statement that emergency services are withdrawn from supporting mass gatherings from tomorrow, the Jockey Club has decided that it is no longer appropriate to stage the event.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."
Senior Jockey Club steward Sandy Dudgeon 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.
"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."
Since the race was first run in 1839 only war has stopped the National although a substitute race was run at Gatwick during WWI. It has survived all types of weather, a bomb scare and foot and mouth disease. Only after the infamous false start of 1993 was the race declared void. (© Daily Telegraph, London)