A virtual Grand National will go ahead despite the cancellation of the 2020 race.
The animated “race” will be shown on ITV on Saturday, 4 April, at 5pm and will feature the 40 horses and riders who were most likely to run in the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on the same day.
“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,” said executive producer Rob McLoughlin of Carm Production, who added that the virtual race had been “incredibly accurate” since its first running in 2017.
Last year, the virtual race was won by Rathvinden, who came third in reality, with Tiger Roll second; the previous year, Tiger Roll won both the virtual and real races. In 2017, Cause of Causes won the virtual race and finished a close second to One For Arthur in reality.
“It is brave to preview the most unpredictable race of all, but also great fun. In 2018 it was astonishing to be able to tell the country who would win—and to do it in almost identical circumstances!” Mr McLoughin said.
“In these difficult times we want the public to simply enjoy the race that sadly never was and think about what might have been.
“I think the use of virtual technology and AI ahead of great sporting events will become the norm in future.”
The special programme will also feature Red Rum and Tiger Roll against each other in a virtual “race of champions”, alongside 38 other former winners.
“It is the dream race, the one everyone will want to see, the legend and the competitor go head to head and it can only happen as part of this ITV special,” said former champion jockey and Aintree legend Richard Pitman, who rode 427 winners in his career.
“Both were trained for the Flat, both are small and both have found a natural home over the Aintree jumps, so to see them compete with 38 other legends over the real course and famous fences will be magnificent.”
Richard will be joined by presenter Nick Luck and other guests for the virtual Grand National television special.
The animation has been created by Inspired Entertainment.
“My team have been working round the clock to make this year even more realistic than ever, and we can’t wait to screen the Red Rum versus Tiger Roll match,” said Steve Rogers, chief commercial officer for virtual sports at Inspired. “It’s terrific TV.”
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‘Very sadly these are exceptional times and this is the responsible thing to do’
With British and Irish racing on hold owing to the coronavirus pandemic, ITV Sport has some alternative programmes and features coming up in the next few weeks.
These include an ITV Racing National Hunt season video podcast on the ITV Sport YouTube Channel on 1 April. Ed Chamberlin, Luke Harvey, Kevin Blake and Richard Hoiles will review the jumps season and discussing the current status in racing due to Covid-19.
Some of ITV Racing’s top features from the past four years are to be shown, including When AP McCoy met Aidan O’Brien and Rachael Blackmore – Racing’s Greatest Female Jump Jockey.
The ITV Racing’s Classic Races feature series will also involve re-showing races that social media users most want to see again.
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