Grand National to take place virtually on national TV
And given that the game goes hand in hand with sport, could members of the public bet on the end result of such an event, the benefits of which would benefit the British National Health Service?
But it is also without doubt one of the only sporting events that have captured the imagination of the entire British public, the race having been broadcast on free television since 1960 (not to mention the hundreds of millions of viewers who connect to the whole world). world).
Crucial for the horse racing industry, it is a unique race that results in dedicated spectators being present and the public listening to place bets.
The Grand National appeals precisely because the supposed shape of the favored horses does not always translate into the result, which means that a stranger can take the glory and finish first, so the “better” does not need to know anything to win.
Do you have a lucky number, a favorite color or a preference for a certain name? You too can share the riches of a Grand National winner.
But with the world shaken and faced with the coronavirus pandemic, horse racing, as well as other hobbies, had to adapt to the sobering reality without the regular sports routine. Indeed, the effective cancellation of the Grand National took place a day after the end of the famous Cheltenham Festival, the organizers being criticized for allowing the event to take place in front of a huge crowd.
And this is where the Virtual Grand National comes in. While virtual horse racing – and virtual sports in general, like the recent Bahrain Grand Prix – is nothing new, current conditions clearly give more meaning to this race, hence the reason why it will be broadcast to the nation in the usual late afternoon Saturday time slot on the terrestrial broadcaster ITV.
On a roll
Modest bets will be allowed, only a very small group of people knowing the result before the race taking place “live”.
There will be a maximum bet allowed of £ 10 ($ 12.40) per horse, or each way, which means that the horse must generally finish in the first four places for the bettor to get a partial payment. The bookies have agreed that the proceeds will go to NHS Charities Together to help them fight the coronaviruses.
Equipped with algorithms and CGI animation, the Virtual Grand National is a representation as close to the most famous steeplechase you are likely to watch. Factors such as age, weight, shape, weather and soil are taken into account and it is expected that the 40 horses and riders who were to race for real will participate. And so the racing world will discover if Tiger Roll, the double defending champion and favorite (both in the real and virtual worlds), will make history as triple winner.
“We are ready for Tiger Roll to be a forerunner,” says executive producer Rob McLoughlin of Carm Productions, “but now we want to brighten up the nation and ask the computer if the story could have been made.”
As for the Grand National, three is indeed the magic number, because only the legendary Red Rum has won the race three times, in 1973, 1974 and 1977. The finalist in 1973 was Crisp, ridden by a champion jockey and Aintree grand Richard Pitman, who is part of the television coverage on Saturday.
Speaking to CNN Sport, the now 77-year-old Pitman is as impressed with technology as anyone. “The entertainment is amazing: for non-racing fans, people wouldn’t know it was not a live race,” said Pitman, who has won 427 winners in his career.
“The only thing we can’t put in an algorithm is the chance to run. You can go to a fence and you can’t see sideways on many of them. So you can jump it and land well on three fallen. ” horses and it’s like a wire and all of a sudden you’re gone. So this is the thing that a computer can’t really do. ”
“Method behind madness”
Pitman speaks with such authority about virtual racing that it is easy to think that it is actually taking place, rather than an example of modern technology at its best. To this end, he has thought a lot about the “horses” that he hopes to frequent at the Virtual Aintree.
“Looking at last year’s race, nothing that ended behind the winner, Tiger Roll, has the right to overthrow him this year,” he said. “But there’s one horse that didn’t finish last year, Pleasant Company, and the year before was beaten only half a length by Tiger Roll, and he broke four fences from home last year. Although its shape is a little uneven, year, if Aintree turns it back on and it brings the horses back to life, it’s a big danger. So Tiger Roll, Magic of Light and Pleasant Company see a chance. ”
While the concept of a virtual Grand National may seem like a gimmick, history has already shown that there is a method behind madness. “In 2017, Cause of Causes won the Virtual Grand National and came just second after the actual race hours,” said Steve Rogers, commercial director of Virtual Sports at Inspired, who spearheaded the animation.
“The 2018 result was breathtaking: Tiger Roll won both in almost identical circumstances, and the computer chose three of the top five finalists, including Tiger Roll, in 2019.”
In addition to the 2020 Grand National virtual race, viewers will be treated to an additional race, pitting 40 Aintree legends from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries in the Battle of the Race of Champions. Among the riders, there will be the immortal Red Rum, but unfortunately for Pitman, the horse he rode in 1973, Crisp, who fell terribly below national glory, being stuck in the post by “Rummy”, is not involved.
Still, Pitman can take some comfort in a radio simulation race this week between the most unlucky losers in Grand National history, “of which Crisp was of course one, and he in the end, after all this time, was good and won it, “said Pitman.
For the rest of us this Saturday, the only answer as to whether one horse is capable of beating another virtually will be: you can bet on it.