ITV to broadcast a Virtual Grand National—with a twist

In the absence of the Grand National this year, a virtual version will pit some of the most iconic horses in the event's history against each other

Grand National Tiger Roll

The Grand National is one of many huge sporting events to have been cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but there is still some consolation for horse racing fans.

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ITV has announced that it will be broadcasting a virtual Grand National at 5pm next Saturday (4th April), that will include CGI versions of the forty runners who would have been most likely to take part.

It is not the first time a virtual race, which uses special algorithms to predict the winner of the race, has run—it first started back in 2017, and has a good record for correctly identifying who would go on to win the main race.

And this time, a special virtual Race of Champions will pit virtual versions of some of the most iconic horses in the race’s history against each other—including three-time winner Red Rum and Tiger Roll, who had been expected to win a third consecutive title before the race was called off.

Executive producer Rob McLoughlin said, “We use the latest CGI technology and algorithms and were ready to go ahead as a forerunner to the big race, but now we want to cheer the nation up and ask the computer if history could have been made.”

Steve Rogers, chief commercial officer for virtual sports at animators Inspired Entertainment, added, “In 2017, Cause of Causes won the Virtual Grand National and came a close second in the real race hours later.

“The 2018 result was breathtaking as Tiger Roll won both in almost identical circumstances and the computer chose three of the top five finishers, including the Tiger, in 2019.”

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It is not yet known of bookmakers will accept any bets placed on the outcome of the virtual race.