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Bookies to donate virtual National profits to health service charity

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London (AFP)

Punters will be able to gamble on Tiger Roll's bid to become the first horse to win three successive Grand Nationals -- in a computer-simulated version on Saturday.

The world's most famous steeplechase at Aintree has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year's real race attracted over £300 million in bets.

The initiative has the backing of Betting and Gaming Council members including William Hill with Ladbrokes also agreeing all profits will go to the NHS Charities Together.

In addition, the Tote will be providing a pool on the race and also donating profits to charity.

It has been agreed with NHS Charities Together that stakes will be limited to £10 per horse, per customer for the event or £10 each-way per horse.

"The virtual Grand National will be the closest we can get to creating one of those moments when we can all come together in celebration, not just for the world's greatest sporting events, but for the NHS heroes working on the front line to keep us all safe," said BGC chief executive Michael Dugher.

"I am delighted that our members have stepped up in this way to support the national effort to combat Covid-19 by contributing all of their race profits to NHS Charities Together.

"For many, it's the only time of the year they place a bet. This year, the big winner will be our NHS."

A field of 40 runners who would have been most likely to line up in the real race will take part and it will go off at 1715GMT and be televised by broadcaster ITV.

There will also be a race of champions pitting the late Red Rum, who won the National three times in the 1970s, against Irish raider Tiger Roll.

"We use the latest CGI technology and algorithms and were ready to go ahead as a forerunner to the big race," said executive producer Rob McLoughlin.

"But now we want to cheer the nation up and ask the computer if history could have been made."

Virtual contests have been held since 2017, with a good record of forecasting the outcome of the real race.

The simulation takes into consideration a broad range of factors to produce the final result, including age, weight, form, weather and ground.

They also consult a panel of racing experts, including former and current jockeys.

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