Successful behind-closed-doors Grand National vital for racing, says Nicholas Wrigley

NICHOLAS Wrigley hopes the first ever Randox Grand National meeting to be staged behind-closed-doors will still be a major showcase for horse racing.

This was the scene at Aintree ahead of the Randox Grand National meeting.

The three-day National meeting begins today and will be Wrigley’s first as chairman of the Aintree Race Committee. He also faces the unenviable task of succeeding the much-respected Rose Paterson, who committed suicide last year.

Today’s action sees the Rose Paterson Randox Foxhunters’ Chase run in her memory over the National fences and a charity trust will be launched on Saturday Grand National day – by her husband Owen, the senior Tory MP and former Cabinet minister.

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Wrigley, a former chairman of York’s Race Committee, says it will be a poignant occasion with the National meeting going ahead without crowds – and the much-missed Paterson.

This year's Randox Grand National meeting goes ahead without crowds.

“I am sad in a sense to be doing it because Rose Paterson is no longer with us,” he told The Yorkshire Post last night.

“However, I am excited and privileged to be involved with the National, and I am particularly excited that the meeting is going ahead after it was lost last year.

“Whilst I am sorry we won’t have crowds, I am delighted we will have owners back for the meeting.”

Wrigley, who lives in North Yorkshire, is looking forward to dual National winner Tiger Roll line up in today’s feature Betway Bowl against the likes of Waiting Patiently for Malton trainer Ruth Jefferson.

He said: “I also hope Cloth Cap gives his owner Trevor Hemmings, and punters up and down the country, a really good run in the National itself. It would be lovely for Trevor, given his love and support for Aintree to win it.”

Even the absence of spectators has still necessitated a major logistical operation to ensure Aintree complies with very strict Covid protocols – and Wrigley says the co-operation of Merseyside’s public health bodies has been invaluable.

He’s also fulsome in his praise for British and Irish’s racing regulators, and says it has again been his fortune to inherit such a great racecourse team to lead.

And he’s confident ITV Racing’s coverage on terrestrial television will lift the nation’s spirits. “I would like to say how impressed I have been with Ed Chamberlin and their team with their coverage complying with all the restrictions; Cheltenham was excellent,” he added.

“The National is a huge story, but given everything racing has been through, a successful Grand National is very, very important.”

Meanwhile the roll-out of live weather data at major race meetings in Great Britain continues with WeatherTrax Live set to debut at Aintree.

WeatherTrax is delivered by Cambridgeshire-based technology and ground management company, TurfTrax, and connects users directly to the on-site racecourse weather station providing 24/7 access to a range of detailed scientific measurements via the racecourse’s own website.

Information including wind speed and direction, air and soil temperature and soil moisture is streamed live and published alongside independent GoingStick readings enabling horsemen, media and racing fans to monitor weather changes and ground conditions in real-time.

Aintree Clerk of the Course Sulekha Varma said: “The Randox Grand National Festival is a global event and the appetite for data increases year on year.

“For the first time we are delighted to be able to make the same detailed localised information that would routinely be provided to horsemen, available to a world-wide audience on demand using WeatherTrax Live.”

The WeatherTrax Live service was launched last year at Ascot as part of an enhanced offering for the Royal Meeting and was seen in action most recently at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.

TurfTrax Managing Director Mike Maher said: “WeatherTrax Live data is becoming increasingly popular among participants and stay-at-home racing followers and we anticipate high demand for the service during the Randox Grand National Festival.

“The data was accessed almost 50,000 times during the Cheltenham Festival band we expect Aintree data to be equally sought after.”

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