Run amid the Covid-19 crisis, the 2021 Virtual Grand National has entered the history books. This relatively new horse racing sector was broadcast on mainstream television service ITV where it peaked at 4.8 million viewers, 18/1 outsider Potters Corner taking home the virtual crown which will guarantee his place in future pub quiz questions around the UK.Second and third in the race went to Walk In The Mill 16/1 and Any Second Now 10/1 respectively, with the real 2018 and 2019 winner and 5/1 favourite Tiger Roll finishing fourth. His audacious attempt to equal Red Rum’s three victories in the race, if successful, would have been a sure- fire bet for a Hollywood blockbuster.Animations of ambulances and exuberant spectators were shown following the jockeys and horses throughout around the famous Aintree racecourse.
This isn’t the only time a virtual contest has been held, since 2017 virtual Grand Nationals have run before the actual event and have often forecast accurate outcomes of the race itself.With the negative news plaguing the public right now, they will be glad to know that all jockeys and horses returned home safely from the race, with 10 falling, four unseating and seven refusals; 19 managed to cross the finish line to a cacophony of virtual screams through a series of complex algorithms alongside the most advanced computer generated sorcery.
Despite initial concerns that the race would merely be a foregone conclusion, the dramatic nature for which Aintree is famous delivered its usual selection of jaw-dropping, “out of your seat screaming” moments. The first Welsh-trained Welsh National winner in over half a century’s victory, however, wasn’t without controversy as 66/1 longshot Aso, who was clear by several lengths, fell at the second to last hurdle, almost gifting the virtual race to the horse part-trained by rugby phenom Johnathan Davies.
Proceeds donated to NHS
Bookmakers from across the UK including Sky Bet, Bet365, Coral, Paddy Power, William Hill and Betfred came together and agreed to donate all profits from the virtual event to ‘NHS Charities Together’, the umbrella organisation that represents over 140 NHS charities. The official total raised is said to be £2.6 million with the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the standards body for betting and gaming expecting the total to rise in coming days. Jockey Club, the organisers of the Grand National also introduced a “My stake For Their Sake” scheme urging fans to donate the money they would have bet on the race to NHS Charities Together.
Alongside this they are also giving away 10,000 free tickets for the first day of the 2021 Grand National to NHS staff.Regional director of Jockey Club Racecourses North West, Dickon White said: “We’re delighted to come together to help to raise crucial funds for the NHS by encouraging Randox Health Grand National fans to donate their usual bet to NHS Charities Together.”
“Our amazing NHS staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to care for Covid-19 patients and we want to do our bit to show our gratitude and let them to know that racing is behind them. We’re obviously extremely disappointed to have to cancel the Randox Health Grand National this year, but we can all get behind this cause much the same as people get behind the National each year.”
Not everyone shared a positive opinion on the virtual race, however, with the All Parliamentary Group declaring the event as “highly irresponsible” provoking some controversy before the claims were categorically shut down by the BGC’s chief executive Michael Dugger who stated that the betting and gaming council were not doing this to “make money or gain customers data”.
Despite this slight criticism, this shouldn’t take away from the virtual epic, which seems to be a job well done by all involved and a welcome break to those twiddling their thumbs between shopping trips in lockdown. The best win of the day, all things considered, may well be all the funds raised to support our NHS workers.