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Real thing: Davy Russell and Tiger Roll win 2019 National

Real thing: Davy Russell and Tiger Roll win 2019 National

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Real thing: Davy Russell and Tiger Roll win 2019 National

Tiger Roll will have to wait until 2021 to try and make history and join Red Rum as a three-time Grand National winner - but he could still be a virtual hero this weekend.

With the real thing cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic that has seen all racing in Britain suspended until at least the end of April, the Virtual Grand National has captured the imagination, with all bookmaker profits to be donated to NHS charities.

To be screened in a special programme on ITV from 5pm today, the race promises to use the latest CGI technology and best information available to produce the most accurate outcome possible.

Davy Russell would again have been the man in the saddle on Gordon Elliott's superstar at Aintree.

He said: "It's a great way of creating money for the NHS, it's great they are distributing the profits that way.

"It's tough times, there are a lot of people sitting at home and hopefully it will give them something to enjoy and watch."

On how he had been looking forward to Tiger Roll's history bid, Russell said: "He ran a blinder at Cheltenham, on ground that wouldn't have suited. Easysland that beat him there is no bad horse, either."

One rider chasing a first National victory - even if it is a virtual one - is Richard Johnson. The multiple champion jockey partners Alpha Des Obeaux in the Tiger Roll colours.

He said: "In these times we are in it is hopefully a good bit of fun and if we can raise money for such a good cause as the NHS, it's got to be good for everybody."

He added of Alpha Des Obeaux: "Native River was the horse I was looking forward to riding in the race, but when he got injured I thought I had a small chance of riding Alpha Des Obeaux if one of Gordon's main jockeys wasn't available.

"Hopefully for all the people who have horses in the virtual race it will be some light-hearted fun at a tough time."

Belfast Telegraph