Sports

Moving the 2021 Grand National to when bookies reopen a ‘no-brainer’

Moving the Grand National to April 12 is a no-brainer. If only finding the winner of the race were this easy.

The world’s greatest steeplechase is woven into the fabric of the sporting year – an occasion when once-a-year punters get to pit their wits against the bookies.

They were denied that chance last April – Tiger Roll was to seek a history-making National hat-trick when the coronavirus pandemic caused the great race to be cancelled.

And, unless you have an online betting account – and millions don’t – you won’t be able to bet on the 2021 National, which takes place on April 10.

Agonisingly, that’s just two days before betting shops are due to reopen under step two of Boris Johnson’s roadmap published on Monday to relax COVID-19 restrictions.

Tiger Roll ridden by jockey Davy Russell (centre) on the way to winning the 2019 Randox Health Grand National

In order to help the sporting public take a giant leap towards normality, the historic steeplechase must be moved to April 12.

That way, fans who have endured such a torrid year – first a 74-day racing blackout, followed by a resumption behind closed doors – can bet on the National the traditional way, with a trip to the bookies.

It’s as simple as working out the winner of a one-horse race.

Rule The World clears the last fence on the way to winning the 2016 Crabbie’s Grand National

If crowds were flocking to Merseyside for the three-day National meeting, it wouldn’t be possible to move the National.

But they’re not – spectators aren’t due to return to sporting arenas until step three of the roadmap on May 17.

The British Horseracing Authority routinely reschedules fixtures lost to the weather during the winter, and there’s already a precedent – the National itself was run on a Monday in 1997 after a bomb scare at Aintree on the Saturday.

Changing the date is a shot in the arm to National punters, many of whom continue to work from home, so are able to watch the race live on ITV.

Dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll with trainer Gordon Elliott (left) and owner Michael O’Leary

But it’s also of benefit to the racing industry which, like every other sport, has lost many millions thanks to the upheaval wrought upon the country by the worst peacetime crisis of the modern age.

The bookies, forced to close – for the second time during the pandemic – at the start of the year, will ensure a safe environment for punters to place their bets on a National institution.

Whatever horse you back, and wherever your choice finishes, one thing is guaranteed.

We are all winners.




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