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The controversial Grand National horse race has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The three-day event, which is unpopular with many on animal welfare grounds, features a four-and-a-half mile track with a series of high fences. Three horses died at the event in 2019.

Now the event will not take place this year, according to a statement by the Jockey Club, which said it is ‘no longer appropriate to stage [it]’ following UK government advice against mass gatherings of people.

‘No longer viable’

Sandy Dudgeon, senior steward of The Jockey Club, said: “Public health must come first.

“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.”

‘Welcome announcement’

Animal protection agency Animal Aid, which has protested against the event, described the cancelation as ‘welcome’.

“Following [the] welcome announcement by the British Horseracing Authority that the Grand National Festival has been canceled, we will not be holding a protest at Aintree or leafleting ahead of the event,” said the organization.

“Thank you to everyone who had already ordered leaflets – you can take action online to help horses.”