Virtual National to bring some cheer to UK

GrandNational action from 2018.
A simulated version of the Grand National will replace the real race on British television screens.

The presenter of Saturday’s Virtual Grand National, Nick Luck, says the race will create a welcome distraction from the daily coronavirus news.

Millions are expected to watch the race on ITV this weekend – with major bookmakers donating all profits to NHS Charities Together.

“It was never set up for a betting event. So it’s a great tribute to everyone involved to raise money for the NHS,” Luck told the Press Association.

ITV announced plans last week to air a virtual version of the world’s greatest steeplechase, using the latest CGI technology and algorithms, with the race taking place at 5.15pm, replicating the start time of the real thing.

Previous runnings of the Virtual National have been shown to be remarkably accurate, and could help answer whether Tiger Roll would have emulated Red Rum in winning for the third time.

Davy Russell would again have been the man in the saddle on the Gordon Elliott-trained superstar at Aintree.

“It’s tough times. There are a lot of people sitting at home and hopefully it will give them something to enjoy and watch,” Russell said.

“The way the weather is at the moment the ground would have been perfect for him (Tiger Roll).”

One rider chasing a first National victory – even if it is a virtual one – is Richard Johnson. The multiple champion jockey partners Alpha Des Obeaux in the Tiger Roll colours.

“In these times we are in it is hopefully a good bit of fun and if we can raise money for such a good cause as the NHS, it’s got to be good for everybody.

“You never know, it might be my chance to actually win the Grand National – I’ll definitely be cheering myself on!”

The Brian Ellison-trained Definitly Red at 14-1 has been among those horses proving popular with punters.

“With all profits going to the NHS, it is wonderful to see so many embrace the fun of the Virtual Grand National. Manchester United and Liverpool fans haven’t wasted any time in backing Definitly Red, but as expected Tiger Roll fans are also coming out in force to support their virtual hero,” a Ladbrokes spokeswoman said.

William Hill reported a similar theme, with Tiger Roll, Definitly Red, Burrows Saint and Beware The Bear all popular.