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Virtual Grand National: How does it work, when is it on and odds

| 03.04.2020

The Grand National proper may have been declared a non-runner until 2021 but that won’t stop Britons up and down the country cheering on a simulated version of Tiger Roll in Saturday’s Virtual Grand National.

It’s the closest thing we’re going to get to live sport for the time being. And with all profits from the race going to the NHS Charities Together, it’s for a good cause too.

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2020 Virtual Grand National.

What are the odds?

Odds for the Virtual Grand National have been fixed at a set-price by all bookmakers. That means they won’t change at any point from now until race-off.

Tiger Roll would’ve gone off a warm favourite to make it a hat-trick of actual Grand National wins, and as such heads the market for the Virtual version at 5/1.

He’s followed by Any Second Now at 10/1 and Burrows Saint at 12/1. Pleasant Company, who finished runner-up in the real Grand National back in 2018 is 28/1, with Double Shuffle the outsider at 100/1.

When is it?

The Virtual Grand National is scheduled to start at the same time the actual race would’ve gone off at. That means the action will begin at 17:15 on Saturday 4th April 2020.

Unlike the real thing, we shouldn’t have to worry about any false starts either.

Where can I watch it?

ITV will have a 30-minute slot dedicated to the Virtual Grand National on the main channel.

It will run from 17:00 until 17:30.

What factors determine the race result?

Information about each horse is fed into the software, which helps to determine the probability of each of their potential finishing positions.

This is based on their past form, performances in other race, weight and a number of other factors.

Will it throw up the same result every time?

The allure of the Grand National is in its unpredictable nature. The Virtual Grand National is no different, with every simulation having the probability of producing a different outcome through the same probabilities.

It stands to reason that the horses with a greater probability of winning stand a greater chance, hence their shorter odds. But that doesn’t guarantee success in the Virtual Grand National, just as it doesn’t in real life.

There’s an element of artificial intelligence involved in how the horses move around the course, how they jump fences and how they interact with each other, which in turn produces different variables.

How did they manage to do it?

Designed by Inspire Entertainment, the whole project took a mammoth 18 months to complete and began with the filming of Aintree Racecourse using drone cameras.

They then built the fences using CGI so that if a horse breaks through any of them, the fence falls apart and CGI characters jog on to patch them up as in real life.

Real life elements such as turf being thrown up, CGI crowds and ambulances tracking the runners were also added in. A flocking algorithm, which takes into account how horses run around corners and how the field reacts should a horse fall at a jump serve to increase the realism of the event.

Who won it last year?

Virtual Tiger Roll will be gunning for revenge this year after Rathvinden stole his crown in 2019. Can the Virtual Tiger reclaim the crown he last won in 2018? We can’t wait to find out.

View the latest Virtual Grand National Odds.

All odds and markets correct as of date of publication.



Nick Murphy

Nick is a graduate of the UEA where he doubled up as the sports editor of the student newspaper. He supports Dagenham & Redbridge and previously edited the matchday programme at Victoria Road. Darts and Horse Racing are among his other favourite sports.