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'It will take more than this hiccup to stop festival at Cheltenham'

 

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Paul Townend on board Al Boum celebrates victory in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase at last year's Cheltenham Festival. Photo: PA

Paul Townend on board Al Boum celebrates victory in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase at last year's Cheltenham Festival. Photo: PA

Paul Townend on board Al Boum celebrates victory in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase at last year's Cheltenham Festival. Photo: PA

Cheltenham chiefs have assured Irish fans that the coronavirus will not lead to the axing of next week's festival despite two cases of the virus being diagnosed in Gloucestershire.

The global spread of the virus has already caused major disruption to sporting events and other mass gatherings around the world, including the postponement of the Six Nations clash between Ireland and Italy in Dublin.

But defiant Cheltenham bosses urged Irish racing fans planning to head to the UK festival next week to "forget your worries".

The call comes as the second case of the coronavirus on the island of Ireland, and the first in the Republic of Ireland, emerged on Saturday, and as the total number of cases in the UK hit 35. Among these are two cases in Gloucestershire, where the festival is held.

Cheltenham Racecourse chief Ian Renton has described the number of cases in the UK as "tiny", and insisted: "It will take more than this hiccup to stop racing or stop the Irish from travelling."

In an earlier statement, the British Horseracing Authority insisted: "Racing continues as usual."

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In an interview with 'The Irish Field', Mr Renton would not be drawn on plans to reschedule the event, or even stage the Gold Cup behind closed doors.

"We are only looking at the four days from March 10 to 13 at this time. The British racing industry is in constant contact with the government here and they are doing an excellent job at maintaining the high health status," he said.

"We are looking forward to starting the festival on March 10 and my message to your readers is to forget your worries and come and enjoy the four days."

Commenting yesterday, a spokeswoman for the festival said that despite the two coronavirus cases in Gloucestershire, its "position on the festival is unchanged".

However, Britain's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, has warned mass gatherings, including sports events, could be cancelled.

Irish Independent


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