British bookmakers are behind a virtual running of the Grand National with profits to be donated to the National Heath Service.
Flat racing in Britain has been suspended until at least the end of April because of the coronavirus pandemic with jumps racing on hold until July 1.
The world’s most famous steeplechase was due to be run this weekend but instead ITV will air a virtual version, using the latest CGI technology and algorithms, in a special program on Saturday (Sunday AEST) 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 the Gordon Elliott-trained Tiger Roll would have emulated Red Rum in winning for the third time.
Tiger Roll has been priced up as the 5-1 favourite, ahead of Ted Walsh’s Any Second Now at 10-1 and Willie Mullins’ Burrows Saint at 12-1.
Retired champion jockey Tony McCoy, who is an ambassador for William Hill, has encouraged punters to get behind it.
“For those people that are working in the NHS, doing the work they are at the moment, it must be horrific, what they are seeing at times,” McCoy said.
McCoy nominated Burrows Saint as his pick.
“I’d have gone for Burrows Saint in the real one,” he said.
“I just thought having won the Irish Grand National last year he’d have plenty going for him.
“If we were being realistic I’d say Burrows Saint, but a better story would be Tiger Roll winning – I’d like Tiger Roll to win the Virtual Grand National. I hope none of them get bad rides!”
It has been agreed with NHS Charities Together that stakes will be limited to STG10 per horse, per customer for the event or PS10 each way per horse. In addition, the Tote will be providing a pool on the race and donating profits to charity.
“Normally now we’d be building up to the biggest betting day of the year, with the nation looking forward to having a flutter on the big race this Saturday, but clearly more important and serious events have rightly put that on hold in 2020,” Coral’s David Stevens said.
“However, the virtual Grand National means people can still get involved in something fun this weekend.”