Virtual Grand National 2020: Saturday’s CGI big race preview

The nation will still be able to enjoy racing of some kind on Saturday when the Virtual Grand National comes to our television screens.

Matthew Crist

The most famous steeplechase in the world may have fallen victim to the Covid-19 outbreak but one of the biggest weekends in sport will still feature a televised Grand National of sorts on Saturday.

Tiger Roll had been due to seek an unprecedented third consecutive win in the big race before it was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic and the government’s advice on social distancing and mass gatherings.

But forty runners who would have been most likely to line up will still take part, using CGI technology and special algorithms meaning there will be racing of some kind from Aintree this weekend after all.

Makers Inspired Entertainment use computer-generated imagery (CGI), to accurately recreate Aintree’s Grand National course, complete with spruce-topped fences and signature jumps such as Becher’s Brook and The Chair.

Inspired form information for the 40 runners and riders deemed most likely to contest this year’s edition is fed into algorithms which then simulate the running and results of the race.

The virtual race is by no means a new thing and was first held in 2017 boasting a pretty impressive record when it comes to predicting the winner of the main event.

In 2017, the simulation saw Cause Of Causes victorious, with Gordon Elliott’s star finishing second in the real thing while six of the top 10 virtual finishers also finished in the top 10 at Aintree hours later.

The 2018 virtual running was won by that year’s real victor Tiger Roll, with the simulation matching three of the first five home with the real race. Meanwhile, Rathvinden won the Virtual Grand National last year before finishing third behind Tiger Roll at Aintree.

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.”

The Virtual Grand National will be broadcast by ITV at 5pm (BST) on Saturday, April 4 and can also be streamed online using the ITV Hub.

The show will also feature a ‘Grand National Race of Champions’ featuring legendary winners of the race from bygone years, such as Red Rum and Tiger Roll,  who will battle against each other, and 38 others in a separate computer simulation.

The Runners and Riders

1 TIGER ROLL 11-10 Davy Rusell
2 BRISTOL DE MAI 11-8 Daryl Jacob
3 ASO 11-2 Charlie Deutsch
4 ELEGANT ESCAPE 11-2 Jonjo O’Neill Jnr
5 ANIBALE FLY 11-2 Barry Geraghty
6 TOP VILLE BEN 11-2 Tom Dowson
7 BEWARE THE BEAR 11-0 Jerry McGrath
8 PEREGRINE RUN 10-13 Kevin Sexton
9 JETT 10-13 Sam Waley-Cohen
10 ALPHA DES OBEAUX 10-13 Richard Johnson
11 TOTAL RECALL 10-13 Paul Townend
12 THE STORYTELLER 10-12 Keith Donoghue
13 MAGIC OF LIGHT 10-12 Robbie Power
14 TALKISCHEAP 10-11 Tommy Cannon
15 YALA ENKI 10-11 Bryony Frost
16 BALLYOPTIC 10-11 Sam Twiston-Davies
17 BURROWS SAINT 10-10 Rachael Blackmore
18 DEFINITELY RED 10-10 Brian Hughes
19 SUB LIEUTENANT 10-9 JJ Slevin
20 OK CORRAL 10-9 Derek O’Connor
21 TOUT EST PERMIS 10-9 Shaun Flanagan
22 VINTAGE CLOUDS 10-8 Danny Cook
23 CRIEVEHILL 10-8 Tom Bellamy
24 LAKE VIEW LAD 10-8 Henry Brooke
25 JURY DUTY 10-8 Mark Enright
26 PLEASANT COMPANY 10-7 David Mullins
27 ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS 10-6 Danny Mullins
28 SHATTERED LOVE 10-6 Lisa O’Neill
29 ANY SECOND NOW 10-6 Mark Walsh
30 POTTERS CORNER 10-6 Jack Tudor
31 DOUNIKOS 10-5 Luke Dempsey
32 KILDISART 10-5 Nico De Boinville
33 DEATH DUTY 10-5 Gavin Brouder
34 RAMSES DE TEILLE 10-5 Tom Scudamore
35 VALTOR 10-4 James Bowen
36 SANT XAVIER 10-4 David Maxwell
37 WARRIORS TALE 10-4 Harry Cobden
38 DOUBLE SHUFFLE 10-4 Jonathan Burke
39 KIMBERLITE CANDY 10-4 Richie McLernon
40 WALK IN THE MILL 10-4 James Best

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