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2020 Virtual Grand National: how does the race work and when is it on?

Virtual Grand National: computer-simulated race to be shown on ITV1 at 5pm on Saturday
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The real Grand National has sadly been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but on Saturday millions will tune in to ITV to watch its replacement: a computer-simulated running of the nation's favourite race. Here's the information you need to know:

How does it work?

The Virtual Grand National is a computer-simulated version of Aintree's world-famous steeplechase, designed by Inspired Entertainment.

They used computer-generated imagery (CGI) to recreate, as accurately as possible, all aspects of the race such as the course layout and National fences.

The simulation itself is made up of mathematical algorithms using data taken from the horses' previous performances. The race's outcome uses a number of factors such as age, weight, form and weather conditions but also contains details such as fallers, unseated riders and collapsing fences.

The Virtual Grand National will attempt to recreate the famous Aintree race

Data on all of the 40 runners from this year's race have been added and the computer has generated odds.  

The three previous Virtual Grand Nationals have been strikingly accurate, with Tiger Roll completing the virtual-real life double in 2018.

Virtual Grand National winners (real life result)

2019 Rathvinden (third)
2018 Tiger Roll (won)
2017 Cause Of Causes (second)

How can I watch the race?

The Virtual Grand National will be broadcast live on ITV1 at 5pm on Saturday. Coverage will be led by Nick Luck with Alice Plunkett and Richard Pitman on as pundits. Stewart Machin will be commentating.

The broadcast will also feature a race of champions, a simulation of previous Aintree greats being tested in an epic clash between 40 famous race winners.

Can I bet on it?

Yes. Bookmakers are keen to support the race and on Wednesday it was revealed that they would be donating any profits taken on the race to the NHS. 

While the race has been pre-recorded, producers Carm Productions have vowed to ensure the result will not leak out to the betting market. 

"As the Virtual Grand National show is pre-recorded, we insist on strict levels of confidentiality from everyone involved in the production process," the company said in a statement.

Tiger Roll: favourite for Saturday's Virtual Grand National

Who is running?

Number, name, jockey, odds, weight

1 Tiger Roll, Davy Russell, 5-1, 11-10
2 Bristol De Mai, Daryl Jacob, 20-1, 11-8
3 Aso, Charlie Deutsch, 66-1, 11-2
4 Elegant Escape, Jonjo O'Neill jnr, 20-1, 11-2
5 Anibale Fly, Barry Geraghty, 20-1, 11-2
6 Top Ville Ben, Tom Dowson, 45-1, 11-2
7 Beware The Bear, Jerry McGrath, 33-1, 11-0
8 Peregrine Run, Kevin Sexton, 66-1, 10-13
9 Jett, Sam Waley-Cohen, 50-1, 10-13
10 Alpha Des Obeaux, Richard Johnson, 25-1, 10-13
11 Total Recall, Paul Townend, 40-1, 10-13
12 The Storyteller, Keith Donoghue, 40-1, 10-12
13 Magic Of Light, Robbie Power, 18-1, 10-12
14 Talkischeap, Tom Cannon, 25-1, 10-11
15 Yala Enki, Bryony Frost, 28-1, 10-11
16 Ballyoptic, Sam Twiston-Davies, 25-1, 10-11
17 Burrows Saint, Rachael Blackmore, 12-1, 10-10
18 Definitly Red, Brian Hughes, 14-1, 10-10
19 Sub Lieutenant, JJ Slevin, 33-1, 10-9
20 Ok Corral, Derek O’Connor, 25-1, 10-9
21 Tout Est Permis, Sean Flanagan, 80-1, 10-9
22 Vintage Clouds, Danny Cook, 33-1, 10-8
23 Crievehill, Tom Bellamy, 66-1, 10-8
24 Lake View Lad, Henry Brooke, 50-1, 10-8
25 Jury Duty, Mark Enright, 40-1, 10-8
26 Pleasant Company, David Mullins, 28-1, 10-7
27 Acapella Bourgeois, Danny Mullins, 33-1, 10-6
28 Shattered Love, Lisa O'Neill, 66-1, 10-6
29 Any Second Now, Mark Walsh, 10-1, 10-6
30 Potters Corner, Jack Tudor, 18-1, 10-6
31 Dounikos, Luke Dempsey, 50-1, 10-5
32 Kildisart, Nico de Boinville, 50-1, 10-5
33 Death Duty, Gavin Brouder, 50-1, 10-5
34 Ramses De Teillee, Tom Scudamore, 66-1, 10-5
35 Valtor, James Bowen, 66-1, 10-4
36 Saint Xavier, David Maxwell, 66-1, 10-4
37 Warriors Tale, Harry Cobden, 80-1, 10-4
38 Double Shuffle, Jonathan Burke, 100-1, 10-4
39 Kimberlite Candy, Richie McLernon, 16-1, 10-4
40 Walk In The Mill, James Best, 16-1, 10-4

Has a virtual race been used as a replacement before?

Yes, but not since the 1967-68 season. Racing was suspended then due to the outbreak of foot and mouth and the BBC broadcasted two computer-simulated races.

The King George VI Chase was simulated in an electric computer centre and commentated by Peter O'Sullevan on the BBC.

The video below, broadcast by British Pathe, details the process of the computer-generated running of the 1967 Massey Ferguson Gold Cup, now traditionally known as the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. 

Download your 2020 Virtual Grand National sweepstake kit here

Read this next:

Bookmakers pledge profits from virtual Grand National will go to NHS charities

Would Tiger Roll have done it? ITV to broadcast virtual 2020 Grand National

Bookmakers have pledged to donate any profits from betting on the Virtual Grand National to the NHS Charities COVID-19 Urgent Appeal. You can donate to this important cause here


The Virtual Grand National will be broadcast live on ITV1 at 5pm on Saturday

Key data

Tiger Roll
E.W. Terms