Saturday’s virtual Grand National, which will be shown live on ITV, will raise funds for the NHS as its battles the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday a number of bookmakers confirmed that any bets taken from the race will be donated to NHS Charities Together, an organisation that consists of more than 140 NHS charities which contribute £1 million a day to support the work of the NHS.

Those involved in raising the funds are bet365, William Hill, Flutter Entertainment, Sky Bet, GVC Holdings, Betfred, Betway, BetVictor, JenningsBet, Tote and Inspired Entertainment.

They are all part of the Betting and Gaming Council and its Chief Executive, Michael Dugher, said: “With the UK understandably and rightly in lockdown, unfortunately the Grand National can’t take place.

“The virtual Grand National will be the closest we can get to creating one of those moments when we can all come together in celebration, not just for the world’s greatest sporting events, but also for the NHS heroes working on the front line to keep us all safe.

“I am delighted that our members have stepped up in this way to support the national effort to combat Covid-19 by contributing all of their race profits to NHS Charities Together.

“Millions of us love a flutter on the Grand National. For many, it’s the only time of the year they place a bet. This year, the big winner will be our NHS.”

Jumps season in Ireland curtailed

Horse Racing Ireland has made the decision to cancel the remainder of the 2019-20 National Hunt season. The Irish Grand National and the Punchestown Festival will not be rescheduled.

Racing had been continuing behind closed doors in Ireland last month until the government banned all sporting events until April 19 as the country deals with the effects of coronavirus.

If racing is to resume, HRI is preparing to run meetings on a staggered basis with four weeks of Flat racing initially.

HRI Chief Executive Brian Kavanagh said: “Like many other sectors, the racing and breeding industry in Ireland will take a seismic economic blow from the fall-out of Covid-19.

“We will be working closely with government to limit the long-term impact of this pandemic. We know that jobs will be lost in a key rural industry and that the viability of some industry institutions will come under serious threat.

“We are working on a range of industry supports, which we hope to announce in the coming weeks. Once an achievable target resumption date can be identified, a new fixture list covering the rest of the year will be quickly published based on our ongoing work, along with revised race programmes that will cater for the entire horse population.

“While the conclusion of the National Hunt season is a major blow for the sector and jump racing enthusiasts, in making an early decision we want to give as much certainty as possible to owners and trainers and this plan will allow winter National horses to take advantage of summer grass, reducing the costs for National Hunt owners, with the knowledge of an enhanced programme to come for them from the autumn onwards, circumstances permitting.”

Racing Welfare announces streamlined grant process

On Wednesday, Racing Welfare announced it had developed a new streamlined application process for those working in the industry to apply for hardship grants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new process has been designed to make obtaining a hardship grant as simple and efficient as possible. Grants have been calculated into fortnightly amounts for a single applicant (£150) and that of a family (£210).

These payments are intended to cover immediate basic needs such as food, electricity and heating.

Applicants will be eligible for a grant if they have encountered financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 situation and the charity’s welfare team will conduct a needs-based assessment before a grant application is processed.

The hardship grants will be financed by an industry fund established by The Racing Foundation, the John Pearce Foundation and other racing charities, utilising Racing Welfare’s infrastructure and grant making expertise to distribute the funds.

Dawn Goodfellow, Chief Executive of Racing Welfare, said: “The provision of hardship grants has been developed in response to the Covid-19 outbreak to help those most in need of support quickly.

“We recognise that the situation is affecting the lives of people living and working in racing in many different ways, with immediate financial need being just one of these.

“We are focusing our response on three main strands of work including the provision of hardship grants, the remaining two of which are: the publication of reliable advice and guidance in relation to the outbreak and its impact, and community support services to prevent loneliness and isolation during this time.

“The crisis is generating a lot of complex needs and so our services are designed to support people who require support on multiple fronts.

“We have streamlined our application procedure to allow for grants to be processed as quickly as possible. We have also altered our verification process to facilitate this being done remotely yet still securely, all of which is set up to get support to those who it most as rapidly as we can.”

Those in need of support should contact Racing Welfare directly; the charity’s regional office numbers are manned from 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday and are contactable as follows:

Malton: 01653 696 869

Middleham:  01969 624 123

Lambourn: 01488 670 034

Newmarket: 01638 560 763

For assistance outside of these times, Racing’s Support Line is available 24hrs a day on 0800 6300 443.

Alternatively, a 24hr live chat service is available via the charity’s website All calls are being answered as quickly as possible, but the charity is asking for all those getting in touch to bear with them at this busy time.

Equine flu vaccination requirements temporarily relaxed

The British Horseracing Authority’s cross-industry Veterinary Committee, in conjunction with the British Equine Veterinary Association, has approved changes regarding the vaccination schedule for equine influenza.

Currently, a horse wishing to compete in Britain must have had the vaccination within nine months, but this has now been switched to a 12-month period given the current restrictions on movement owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was also made on the basis that there have been no reported equine influenza cases in the horse population in the UK this year and the change is currently only in place for 2020.

The Veterinary Committee will continue to monitor the situation and make further recommendations when necessary. A consultation on permanent changes to vaccination protocols will be delayed while resources are dedicated to managing the coronavirus outbreak.