The presenter of Saturday’s Virtual Grand National Nick Luck has admitted the race now has “an extra layer of significance” and will create a welcome distraction from the daily coronavirus news.
Millions are expected to watch the race on ITV this weekend – with major bookmakers donating all profits to NHS Charities Together.
Luck said: “It was never set up for a betting event. So it’s a great tribute to everyone involved to raise money for the NHS.”
ITV announced plans last week to air a virtual version of the world’s greatest steeplechase, using the latest CGI technology and algorithms, with the race taking place at 5.15pm, replicating the start time of the real thing.
Previous runnings of the Virtual National have been shown to be remarkably accurate, and could help answer whether Tiger Roll would have emulated Red Rum in winning for the third time.
Luck said all the variables will have been inputted to produce “the purest race possible”.
He said: “It’s a bit of fun. It’s intention was to be a bit of fun. Now it has an extra layer of significance, especially now the NHS and its brilliant workers will benefit.
“This is a diversion for families at a time when everybody needs one.”
Luck is also a committee member at Aintree, the home of the Grand National, and said he was “very proud” of the association.
The racecourse is to give 10,000 free tickets to NHS staff and carers on Merseyside for the first day of the National meeting in 2021.
Luck warned, however, that racing may look a little different in the months and years ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Racing is a collection of small businesses, small to medium employers and self-employed people,” he said.
“All those are at high risk for the next few months. Racing closing is enough to threaten their existence.
“Having said that racing welfare and measures from the government will soften the blow.
“It’s impossible to say what racing will look like in the future.
“We are going to have to make do and mend – that will mean doing the unconventional.
“We have got to give the industry the best chance to survive.”
1. TIGER ROLL (Jockey: Davy Russell) Rating: 9 (out of 10)
Became first back-to-back winner since Red Rum when racing to glory last season. Delayed start to this campaign and had hard race at Cheltenham, but impossible not to see him going very close.
2. BRISTOL DE MAI (Daryl Jacob) 7
High-class chaser on his day, finishing third in last season’s Gold Cup. Must go well if taking to the fences.
3. ASO (Charlie Deutsch) 5
Very useful, but all his form is at trips way short of this and makes limited appeal as a result.
4. ELEGANT ESCAPE (Jonjo O’Neill Jr) 5
Winner of the Welsh National in 2018, but recent form a concern and is passed over.
5. ANIBALE FLY (Barry Geraghty) 6
Has twice run well in the National, to finish fourth and fifth, and his performance over hurdles last month was not without promise.
6. TOP VILLE BEN (Tom Dowson) 7
Progressive this season and likely to run a lot better than his odds of 45-1 would suggest.
7. BEWARE THE BEAR (Jerry McGrath) 6
A former Cheltenham Festival winner, who should enjoy the trip but might want it a bit softer.
8. PEREGRINE RUN (Kevin Sexton) 4
Stamina a huge question mark for this Irish challenger, who has not run since November.
9. JETT (Sam Waley-Cohen) 5
Second to Douvan in November was a fine effort, but while not disgraced in top company since, this is probably a step too far.
10. ALPHA DES OBEAUX (Richard Johnson) 5
Fell in 2018, but interesting enough for Tiger Roll’s trainer with Becher Chase third over the big fences offering hope.
11. TOTAL RECALL (Paul Townend) 6
Lost his way after falling in the 2018 Gold Cup, but seemingly back to his best in winning the Thyestes Chase latest.
12. THE STORYTELLER (Keith Donoghue) 6
Bits of his form could make 40-1 attractive for each-way backers and ran a blinder over hurdles at Cheltenham last month.
13. MAGIC OF LIGHT (Robbie Power) 7
Runner-up to Tiger Roll last year and aimed at the big race once more. No reason she should not have her say.
14. TALKISCHEAP (Tom Cannon) 4
Decent in his novice days but a leap of faith to see him as the winner judged on his run at Kempton in February, where he was pulled up.
15. YALA ENKI (Bryony Frost) 7
Third in the Welsh National and likely to catch the eye of one or two given his jockey. Far from a forlorn hope.
16. BALLYOPTIC (Sam Twiston-Davies) 5
Fell last year and was disappointing in the Becher Chase. A winner since, but has it to do.
17. BURROWS SAINT (Rachael Blackmore) 10
Winner of last year’s Irish National and still has more to offer over fences. Tiger Roll might find it difficult to give him a stone.
18. DEFINITLY RED (Brian Hughes) 7
Was carrying plenty of stable confidence ahead of the real race on the back of a solid campaign.
19. SUB LIEUTENANT (JJ Slevin) 4
Finished runner-up in the Topham Chase at the National meeting last year, but not really what he was.
20. OK CORRAL (Derek O’Connor) 8
Has plenty going for him after very taking win at Doncaster. Would have had solid chance of finally giving Nicky Henderson his National winner.
21. TOUT EST PERMIS (Sean Flanagan) 5
Bit of a puzzle, as has not hit the heights expected over fences but did run well at Cheltenham.
22. VINTAGE CLOUDS (Danny Cook) 6
Represents a National-winning yard and looked really good at Haydock a couple of runs ago. Always been thought the type for the race, but did fall last year.
23. CRIEVEHILL (Tom Bellamy) 5
Like a lot of these he is not completely out of it, but equally would be quite a surprise if he was good enough.
24. LAKE VIEW LAD (Henry Brooke) 6
Was quietly fancied last year only to be pulled up. Few pounds lower and could give a good account without winning.
25. JURY DUTY (Mark Enright) 6
Only a 10-1 chance for the real thing 12 months ago, but unseated. Three times those odds now and nothing from his yard can be written off with confidence.
26. PLEASANT COMPANY (David Mullins)
Just a head separated him and Tiger Roll in 2018, but age seemingly catching up with him now.
27. ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS (Danny Mullins) 7
Softer ground might help, but loads to like about Bobbyjo Chase win and every chance of being in the shake-up.
28. SHATTERED LOVE (Lisa O’Neill) 6
Classy mare, whose 66-1 odds would be tempting but has never looked like she wants extreme distances.
29. ANY SECOND NOW (Mark Walsh) 7
Represents the very shrewd Ted Walsh and last win at Naas was in a race his trainer has used before for his National contenders.
30. POTTERS CORNER (Jack Tudor)
Welsh Grand National hero. Certain to stay every yard, but might find a couple too good on this quicker ground.
31. DOUNIKOS (Luke Dempsey
Yet another for the Tiger Roll team, but odds of 50-1 probably flatter him.
32. KILDISART (Nico de Boinville) 7
Ran a massive race to be second at Cheltenham and will enjoy the ground from the right end of the handicap.
33. DEATH DUTY (Gavin Brouder) 4
Top-notch novice in his pomp but not the same since returning from a long time off the track.
34. RAMSES DE TEILLEE (Tom Scudamore) 6
Has thrived over hurdles of late, but no back number over fences, either, as witnessed by his second in 2018 Welsh National. Will give his backers a run for their money.
35. VALTOR (James Bowen) 5
Sent off at 66-1 last year and is the same odds again, which is fair.
36. SAINT XAVIER (David Maxwell) 4
Grade One-placed in France, but has not looked a world beater since moving to Britain.
37. WARRIORS TALE (Harry Cobden) 4
Returned recently at Doncaster and did not show anything like enough to suggest this is anything over than a massive task.
38. DOUBLE SHUFFLE (Jonathan Burke) 4
Has been a fine servant to his yard, but hard to seeing him rekindling the sort of form that once saw him finish second in the King George.
39. KIMBERLITE CANDY (Richie McLernon) 8
One to be feared from the bottom of the weights, having finished second in the Becher to Walk In The Mill and then winning the Classic Chase at Warwick.
40. WALK IN THE MILL (James Best) 8
Fourth last year and squeezes in right at the bottom. Becher form looks smart and raced with plenty of enthusiasm over hurdles at Chepstow in January before being saved for this.
All eyes on Tiger Roll, but BURROWS SAINT can spoil the party. Walk In The Mill and Kimberlite Candy will be hard to keep out of the frame, while Acapella Bourgeois and Ok Corral are other place contenders to consider.
1. BURROWS SAINT
2. Tiger Roll
3. Walk In The Mill
4. Kimberlite Candy
5. Acapella Bourgeois.