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Horse Racing: The 2020 Grand National Will Be Run - Virtually!

The current global crisis has led to the cancellation of the actual 2020 Grand National, something which the Daily Mail reports will cost the bookmaking industry, the city of Liverpool and the racecourse owners £500 million in lost revenue.

It’s small compensation but ITV, who were set to broadcast the big race live, have come up with a ‘virtual Grand National’ which bookmaker William Hill are sponsoring with profits being donated to the NHS Charities Together (the umbrella organisation that represents more than 140 NHS charities).

The 2020 virtual Grand National, created by Inspired Entertainment, will be screened by ITV at 5.15pm, replicating the real race start time. Users who have an ITV Hub account can also watch the broadcast live. It will feature the 40 runners and riders who were most likely to run in the Aintree spectacular this weekend.

Tiger Tiger

This will be the fourth year there has been a virtual Grand National which is normally broadcast before the race itself and last year it correctly identified Tiger Roll as the big winner. As the defending National champion he was the big race favourite before we went ‘virtual’ and he remains the favourite at odds of 5/1.

Naturally the Irish super horse has to be considered the most likely virtual winner again on Saturday. Incidentally in 2017 Cause Of Causes won the virtual Grand National simulation race and came a close second in the real race hours later – so the technology and computer algorithms involved here seem pretty good!

Virtual Grand National Tips 2020

The leading candidates in this Saturday’s virtual Grand National race live on ITV include Burrows Saint (12/1 in the virtual betting) who won last year’s Irish Grand National.

Walk In The Mill (16/1 in the virtual betting) finished fourth in 2018 Grand National but gets in here off a feather weight

Last year’s Grand National runner-up Magic of Light is 6lb better off for a two-and-three-quarter length beating by Tiger Roll last year. He was 66/1 last year, but only 18/1 is available this weekend.

Race of Champions

A virtual ‘Race of Champions’ will precede the 2020 virtual Grand National and it is an initiative that also has the backing of Betting and Gaming Council members including bet365, William Hill, Flutter Entertainment (Paddy Power & Betfair), BetFred, Betway, BetVictor and others.

And it is being mooted that punters can bet on this race albeit their stakes will be limited to £10 per-horse, per-customer for the event. Bookmakers profits will once again go to charity.

Betting and Gaming Council chief executive Michael Dugher said: “I am delighted that our members have stepped up in this way to support the national effort to combat Covid-19 by contributing all of their race profits to NHS Charities Together.”

History Repeats Itself

A virtual horse race is by no means a new thing. A remarkable 53 years ago commentator Peter O’Sullivan commentated on a virtual Cheltenham Gold Cup which was decided by the computers at London University. The race had been cancelled due to an outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease. 


Now unlike the 2020 Virtual Grand National we have no idea of the weights which will be allotted to the race’ greats such as Red Rum, Aldaniti, Rough Quest, 2015 winner Many Clouds (who carried the biggest weight to success since Red Rum in 1974) and, of course, defending champion Tiger Roll.

We do know ITV tried this before too, in 2018, when defeat for Red Rum irked the trainer’s son, Donald, prompting him to complain to Twitter and receive a very sympathetic response from his followers. Surely Rummy can take his fourth National on Saturday!