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Horse Racing

Armed cops form ring of steel around Aintree racecourse as Grand National Festival kicks off

THE GRAND National meeting kicks off this afternoon at Aintree Racecourse.

And the police are taking no chances with the first behind closed doors running of the three-day Festival.

Armed police have been called in to cover the event
All roads are closed around the racecourse

The authorities have warned punters to stay away and from trying to get a peep of the action.

Local police have even told racing fans not to gather in groups of over six in their gardens.

Around 30,000 punters are normally welcomed to the opening day of the Festival, but this year only a small number of owners and officials will present.

Ch Supt Paul White said: “We know the event is traditionally a huge part of Merseyside’s social calendar and attracts large crowds.

One punter got an early look at the course through the fence

“This year’s event will be taking place behind closed doors, which is a huge shame, however we are clearly in unprecedented times.

“We have been working closely with Aintree to ensure the festival can still take place safely.

“As such there will be a proactive and proportionate policing operation.”

Saturday’s Randox Health Grand National is off at 5.15 and the final field was declared this morning.

Cloth Cap remains the red-hot favourite with most bookies at 4-1.

But Rachael Blackmore has been booked to ride Minella Times and Henry De Bromhead’s horse has been backed into as short as 9-1.

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