At 5pm today a computer stimulated version of the Grand National was broadcast live on ITV with all earnings being donated to NHS charities, as it continues to battle with coronavirus.
English racing broadcaster Nick Luck presented the show and he was accompanied by Alice Plunkett and Richard Pitman as pundits, with commentary from Stewart Machin.
The program also included the ‘Race of Champions’ which saw previous triple champion Red Rum win against todays favourite Tiger Roll and 38 other Aintree heroes.
However, he wasn’t the top favourite amongst all the program’s experts with jockey Lizzie Kelly choosing L’Escargot to win and Lucinda Russell predicting Golden Miller.
The 1976 winner Rag Trade was a faller at the first and Bob Champion and Aldaniti fell at the third. 19thcentury hero Manifesto was runner up to Red Rum while Tiger Roll came third.
2nd April 1977: Racehorse Red Rum wins the Grand National race at Aintree for the third time with jockey Tommy Stack up. (Photo by Frank Barratt/Keystone/Getty Images)
At 5.15pm the virtual Grand National took place with trainer Christian Williams Potters Corner winning at 18/1, with Walk In The Mill as runner up at 16/1, Any Second Now taking third and the 4/1 favourite Tiger Roll, placed fourth. Lake View was the first to fall, followed by Valtour, Bristol De Mai and others.
April 6, 2019: Jockey Davy Russell celebrates in the Grand National Handicap Chase after Tiger Roll put his name alongside legend Red Rum winning back to back Grand Nationals in stunning style.
The bookmakers were also supporting the virtual event and are donating profits to the NHS.
However, a strict level of confidentiality was needed from everyone involved in the production process as the race was pre-recorded and producers had to vow to ensure the leak was not slipped out to the betting market.
The virtual Grand National started in 2017 and was designed by Inspired Entertainment, they used computer generated imagery to recreate a version of Aintree’s famous steeplechase course, including the course layout and National fences, with precise accuracy.
The data is collected from the horses previous performances and used factors including their age, weight, form, weather conditions, the going, and details including their falls and unseated riders.
Rob McLoughlin, executive producer said, “We use latest CGI technology and algorithms and we’re ready to go ahead as the forerunner to the big race, but now we want to cheer up the nation and ask the computer if history could have been made”.
The graphics and presentation was flawless with identical features to Aintree with clear cut details on the fences and the support cars driving along the side of the track.
Various people turned to twitter, including OBE Irish jockey AP McCoy.
British horse racing is suspended until the end of April due to the virus but is under constant review.
Stay home, stay safe!