The Virtual Grand National and why I’ll be watching

April 3, 2020
Charlie Raincock

I love horse racing. Specifically, I love the jumps.

Why? No single motivation, but instead I’m drawn by its uniquely magnetic combination of the thrill of betting, being outside and enjoying the countryside, socialising, eating, drinking and dressing up.

A major highlight of jumps each year is the Aintree Festival and its showpiece, the Grand National. Picking out a horse for the National and watching the race unfold excitedly as a family is amongst my earliest and most cherished childhood memories.

So, like all racing fans, I let out a longer-than-normal sigh of resignation when reading it had become the latest sports event to fall victim to the Covid-19 outbreak. As a result, we were going to miss the chance to come together as one – as only live sports events allow – to see Tiger Roll attempt to match Red Rum’s Grand National hattrick.

Equal in length to that sigh was the groan I let out yesterday when I read that it was to be replaced by a virtual running of the race.

Why watch that when the prospect offers not any of the reasons why I love the sport? I’m not outside, not being social and why would I bet on the outcome of a set of AI computations?

BUT in 24 hours, I have since done a full 360 – as isolation rules allow – and am now massively looking forward to it.

Why not use it as a chance to break the monotony of separation, get the family together round the telly, lay on some tasty food and drink, dress up to lighten the mood and momentarily ‘escape’?

Most importantly, we should all have a bet on the ‘race’ as it will be the best bet any of us have ever placed – a once-in-a-lifetime bet from which, uniquely, there is no loser.

If you win, you’re quids in. If you lose, the money goes to support the NHS Charities Together and the titanic effort in the battle against the virus. There is no downside and the maximum wager is a tenner.

I’m not saying I’ll be watching virtual racing from Steepledowns in my local Ladbrokes any time soon, but on Saturday at 5pm I’ll be tuned to ITV, dressed in my finest tweed, armed with a suitable libation and hopefully joined by the family to cheer Tiger home.

What are you drinking?

Charlie Raincock