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Coronavirus: AP McCoy clarifies Cheltenham Festival comments after saying 'lives were lost'

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Crowds during day four of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse.

Crowds during day four of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse.

Crowds during day four of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse.

Northern Irish champion jockey Sir AP McCoy has moved to clarify comments he made around the decision to stage the Cheltenham Festival last month.

Speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain, McCoy discussed the potential return of racing after the coronavirus pandemic passes.

"Look, the reality of it is that, as you've rightly pointed out, a lot of lives have been lost because of it and who knows, when do we go back, do we go back, is it too soon, is it not too soon, do we lose more lives at the end of it all? I don't know," he said.

"Hindsight's a great thing."

His comments were initially interpreted as meaning people had lost their lives because the festival went ahead.

However the horse racing great later clarified his comment on Twitter, saying that he meant "lives have been lost referring to Covid-19, not the Cheltenham Festival".

The festival took place from March 10 to 13 before strict social distancing measures were introduced in the UK on March 20.

There had been calls for the festival to be cancelled due to people travelling in and out of England to attend the event, with thousands of people gathering in a relatively small area.

Over 250,000 people attended the event, with hundreds of Covid-19 cases already confirmed in the UK.

Moneyglass-born Grand National winner McCoy said that race organisers were following Government advice when they allowed the festival to go ahead.

Most of the UK's sporting calendar, including Premier League football, was not suspended until March 13, the final day of the event.

In the wake of the outbreak McCoy has joined forces with fellow horse racing alumni Zara Tindall and Frankie Dettori to raise money for the NHS.

Equestrian Relief has raised £77,000 of a £100,000 target through a series of online challenges.

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AP McCoy

AP McCoy

Getty Images

AP McCoy

The former BBC Sports Personality of the Year said it was easy to be critical of the decision to go ahead with the Cheltenham Festival in hindsight.

"I suppose in hindsight, it's always easy isn't it. With Cheltenham they were following at the time the Government guidelines," he told the ITV programme.

"They were the ones that had asked for advice. I suppose that will be the same when we stopped and when do we go back - the same people will be making decisions."

A number of people who attended the event have reportedly tested positive for Covid-19, McCoy was in attendance, but a representative said he had not displayed any symptoms of the virus.

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Lee Mack (Ian West/PA)

Lee Mack (Ian West/PA)

Lee Mack (Ian West/PA)

Comedian Lee Mack, footballer Charlie Austin and retired army officer and ex-husband of the Duchess of Cornwall Andrew Parker Bowles all reported showing symptoms after attending the event.

Festival organisers the Jockey Club said the event went ahead after "extensive consultation".

“The Festival went ahead under the clear and ongoing guidance from the government and its science experts throughout, like other popular sports events at Twickenham [and] Murrayfield, 10 Premier League matches and the Uefa Champions League [between Liverpool and Atlético Madrid] at Anfield that same week," a spokesperson said.

“We promoted the latest public health advice and introduced a range of additional hygiene measures at the event, including hundreds of hand sanitiser dispensers and extra wash basins.”


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