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 told the PA news agency: “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.”