Thousands of people should be spending this morning getting ready for the first day of the Grand National festival.

By now, the fences would have been built, the bars and hospitality areas would be ready and the media would have arrived to begin reporting on the world's greatest steeplechase.

Across Liverpool, champagne corks would have been popping as people enjoyed a pre-races breakfast in style and the city's salons would have been filled with bookings made months ago as women put the finishing touches to their race day look.

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Virtual Grand National 2020

But this year, Aintree racecourse stands empty. The cheers won't ring out, the bookies won't pay out and we'll never know if Tiger Roll would have made history on Saturday.

The deserted entrance Aintree Train Station, normally filled with thousands of racegoers (Pic Andrew Teebay)

Just over two weeks ago it was confirmed that this year's Grand Nationalwouldn't go ahead, after the government said there should be no mass gatherings due to the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the country on lockdown to try and stop the spread of the virus, with everyone urged to stay home and save lives.

The main entrance to Aintree Racecourse (Pic Andrew Teebay).

Today it was announced that the first day of next year's Grand National festival will be dedicated to the NHS, with 10,000 tickets donated to the health service.

It may seem a long way off, but it’s a day when the Aintree crowd should cheer louder than ever before, for the heroes who are helping the country through this difficult time.