Welsh National at Chepstow without crowds after government’s Covid call

Racegoers will not be able to attend the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow after the government made a call on Covid restrictions.

For the second year in a row, the venue's biggest race on December 27 is being held behind closed doors.

Following concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant, First Minister Mark Drakeford decided the rule would apply to sporting events at all levels from Boxing Day.

The decision is a huge blow to Chepstow, as paying spectators were not allowed at the rescheduled 2020 running of the fixture in January.

More than 6,000 tickets had been sold in advance this year.

Chepstow Racecourse posted on Twitter : “Following the Welsh Government’s announcement, fixtures until mid-January will be run behind closed doors, without spectators, including the Coral Welsh Grand National.

"We’ll be contacting impacted customers very soon.”

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: "Sporting events over the Christmas period are one of the big highlights of the year. Unfortunately, the new Omicron variant is a significant development in the pandemic and could cause a large number of infections.

"We need to do everything we can to protect people's health and control the spread of this awful virus.

"Throughout the pandemic we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe. The advice is clear – we need to act now in response to the threat of Omicron. We are giving people as much notice of these decisions as we can.

"Crowds will come back as soon as possible. We want everyone to be here to enjoy their favourite sports."

Since October 11, Chepstow had welcomed fans with Covid certification on the NHS Wales app – for the double vaccinated or those with proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

The measure for outdoor unseated events with crowds of more than 4,000 people was introduced in England last Wednesday.

Trainer Ron Harris, whose business is near Chepstow Racecourse, told the Racing Post that the difference between the two places does not make sense to him.

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"It's unreal, one side of the border can go racing and the other can't. There's no sense to it, no logic,: he said.

"We had this spell last year when we had a shutdown, England was carrying on and the little country of Wales was on stop.

"It's very hard for trainers with owners who want to go racing and take their friends."

Last year's winner, the Evan Williams-trained Secret Reprieve, is on course to defend his crown in next Monday's race.

But the sponsor's ante-post favourite, Ask Me Early, was ruled out after a fall during a schooling session.

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