Grand National to start with ‘Liverpool’s NHS Day’ tribute to pandemic heroes

The Grand National Festival starts tomorrow with a tribute to the nation’s health workers.

Thursday's event has been named “Liverpool’s NHS Day” in honour of thousands of staff who have dedicated themselves to saving lives during the pandemic.

The Jockey Club had planned to distribute 10,000 free tickets to health and care workers as a special “thank you”.

But the continuing Covid crisis means the racing will be held behind closed doors over the next three days.

And the freebies will now be handed out for the 2022 Festival.

Dickon White, Regional Director of Jockey Club Racecourses North West, said: “Last year we donated 10,000 tickets for this year’s Randox Grand National Festival which we were delighted to do. However, I’m not sure any of us anticipated that we’d still be in the position we are currently in with the pandemic.

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“We are fully committed to doing this so we’re honouring the donation and rolling it forward to the 2022 Randox Grand National Festival. We look forward to welcoming them in 2022 to show our appreciation for everything they’ve been doing for us.”

He added: “We’re delighted to continue to rename the first day of the festival, Liverpool’s NHS Day, as a small way to show our gratitude.”

Jan Ledward, Chief Officer at NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the organisation which plans NHS care for the city, said: “We fully support The Jockey Club’s move to reallocate the kind ticket donation from this year’s event to 2022.

“We are delighted that the enormous effort from our dedicated people across local health and care will still be recognised next year – it’s a fantastic gesture.

“Staff are working tirelessly to keep services running and give people the care they need, often in the face of significant challenges.

“Whether in GP practices, hospitals, community and mental health services, care homes, social care – or the many other areas that make up our local system – teams are showing incredible resilience and dedication.”

The ticket process and distribution process will commence in January 2022 and further details will follow at the end of 2021.

An estimated 150,000 race goers usually attend the three day jumps festival in Liverpool.

Covid restrictions mean the towering stands and track side terraces will be empty this year as the horses and their riders try to write themselves into the history books.

But an estimated world wide TV audience of 600million will watch the 173rd Grand National on Saturday.

And despite bookmakers shops staying closed until Monday, up to £250million is expected to wagered on the big race, which starts at 5.15pm and will be broadcast by ITV.

The current favourite, Cloth Cap, ridden by Tom Scudamore, is a short priced 4-1 to win the feature race.

Cloth Cap belongs to Preston North End owner Trevor Hemmings, who has previously won the National with Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015), and is hoping for a record fourth win in the world’s greatest steeplechase.

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But fourth favourite Minella Times, priced at 12-1, will have huge support with punters as jockey Rachael Blackmore bids to become the first female rider to win the National.

She is expected to be one of three women jockeys lining up at the start of the race, alongside Bryony Frost, who rides 33-1 shot Yala Enki, and Tabitha Worsley on 100-1 outsider Sub Lieutenant, owned by her mum Georgie Howell.

ADD: In the UK the 2019 Grand National attracted an ITV audience of almost 10million.

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