At least £2.6 million was raised for the NHS Charities Together as almost five million people in the UK watched a virtual horse race.
The Virtual Grand National at Aintree, Liverpool, UK, was won by 18-1 outsider Potters Corner in a computer simulation of the famous steeplechase that had been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Potters Corner, ridden by 17-year-old Jack Tudor, held off a late challenge from Walk in the Mill, with a fading Tiger Roll settling for fourth place.
The Betting and Gaming Council, who co-ordinated bookmakers donating their profits on the race, hope the sum raised could rise higher with some punters donating part or all of their winnings to NHS Charities Together, the umbrella organisation which represents over 140 NHS charities.
“We are overwhelmed with the public support for the virtual Grand National and the support shown for NHS Charities Together,” said Michael Dugher, Betting and Gaming Council CEO.
“When the nation was in much need of some light relief, millions joined in the fun in honour of one of Britain’s greatest sporting events and helped raise a fantastic amount for our brave heroes in the NHS.”
Potters Corner is the winner of the 2⃣0⃣2⃣0⃣ Virtual Grand National!
A Welsh winner of the Virtual National! 🏴 pic.twitter.com/OUwK8pBdjK
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) April 4, 2020
The Virtual Grand National used the latest CGI technology and algorithms to determine how the race was run. Limited betting was allowed on the race, with a maximum stake of £10.
“The Virtual Grand National has exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations. There was nothing virtual about the feel-good factor this race generated and the fantastic sum raised for a great cause,” said Simon Clare, representing betting business Coral.
The 4.8 million people who watched the 30 minute Virtual Grand National on TV station ITV was around half what might have been expected for favourite Tiger Roll’s historic shot at a third consecutive win with last year’s real race attracting 9.6 million viewers.
The figure equated to a third of the viewing audience and was a massive leap from the 737,000 who watched the 2019 Virtual Grand National shown on ITV4 on the eve of the race.
Christian Williams, trainer of Potters Corner, embraced the Virtual Grand National.
“I’m delighted, it’s great and great to cheer everyone up in tough times – I think even people from outside of racing were tuned in. It was something for people to cheer on, people are stuck in their houses and it probably got a good viewing. It was something to watch together and have a bit of banter leading up to it.”