Horse racing fans will still be able to watch one of the world’s most prestigious races, albeit in virtual form, with the news that ITV will host a virtual Grand National.
The race itself, which is the biggest public attraction in the sport of racing, was due to be staged on April 4, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But ITV will instead be broadcasting a virtual contest at 17:00 on that day. The race will feature the 40 runners who were most likely to have been involved and will be produced through the use of algorithms and CGI technology.
Speaking about their plans, Rob McLoughlin, the Executive Producer for ITV Racing, said that although it was sad not to have the real race this year, the virtual version will be fun for viewers:
“It is brave to preview the most unpredictable race of all, but also great fun. In these difficult times we want the public to simply enjoy the race that sadly never was and think about what might have been.”
Virtual Racing has become common in the betting industry, but has been stepped up during the pandemic, after horse and greyhound racing in the UK was called off. And the company responsible for running the virtual race, Inspired, have produced simulations of the last three Grand Nationals. In 2017, the virtual race was won by Cause of Causes, which finished second in the real race, while Tiger Roll was the real and virtual winner in 2018.
The Chief Commercial Officer for Virtual Racing at Inspired, Steve Rogers, said that his team have been working harder than ever to produce a realistic version of the race, which is set to include legendary Aintree hero Red Rum.
The Grand National is traditionally the showpiece on the final day of the spring Aintree Festival, but earlier this month, the owner of Aintree, Jockey Club Racecourses, confirmed that the entire meeting had been cancelled due to restrictions on travel and public events.