It’s virtual history! Potters Corner writes new chapter in Aintree legend with victory in computer-simulated Grand National after real-life race was cancelled due to coronavirus crisis
- Potters Corner will forever be guaranteed to be part of a pub quiz question
- The 18/1 runner won the 2020 Virtual Grand National with the race cancelled
- There is a decent chance that the money raised for the NHS will be sizeable
- 17-year-old Jack Tudor never looked like being caught on the winner late on
We’ve had the void Grand National, the bomb scare Grand National and dramas like Devon Loch collapsing on the run-in with the race at his mercy in 1956.
Now the biggest steeplechase in the calendar which stretches back to the victory of a horse called Lottery in 1839 and which often seems to have its plot penned by Hollywood script writers has another chapter.
Potters Corner, trained in Wales by Christian Williams and part-owned by that country’s British Lions centre Jonathan Davies, may never have his name on the roll of honour alongside steeplechasing heroes like the iconic Red Rum but he will forever be guaranteed to be the subject of a pub quiz question as the horse which won the 2020 Virtual Grand National when the rest of the sporting world was shut down.
Potters Corner, trained in Wales by Christian Williams, won the 2020 Virtual Grand National
The 18/1 runner will be guaranteed to be the subject of a pub quiz question after his triumph
The gambling industry will announce on Sunday morning how much has been raised for the NHS Charity Group through their profits from the race, but with the winner an 18-1 shot and outside the top five best-backed horses before the race, there seems a decent chance that the money raised will be sizable.
Early indications were that a viewing public in Covid-19 lockdown and with little else to distract them embraced the race with business being described as ‘significant’ by one industry source with an average bet of £2.
We will also get ITV viewing figures on Sunday but in living rooms around the country, families and friends were interacting on phones and computers as presenter Nick Luck remotely hosted the programme and interacted with a clutch of guests from a mixture of his back garden and music room.
It could only have been better if he sat down at his piano to burst into a rendition of ‘Camptown Races’.
There seems a decent chance that the money raised for the NHS Charity Group will be sizeable
A result decided by complex algorithms and played out using the latest computer generated wizardry was the closest we are going to get to the real thing this year.
The work of Inspired Gaming did manage to deliver some archetypal Aintree drama.
Running to the second last fence, 66-1 Aso bounded clear of his virtual rivals looking like he might spring another shock for trainer Venetia Williams, who trained 100-1 2009 real winner Mon Mome.
But that was where he dramatically crashed out with jockey Charlie Deutsche.
That left Potters Corner in charge and, though last year’s real Grand National fourth Walk In The Mill was closing him down all the way to the finishing line, 17-year-old jockey Jack Tudor never looked like he would be caught.
Potters Corner took charge at the second to last fence and never looked like being caught
Third was Any Second Now while dual winner Tiger Roll, who was always prominently placed, hung on to fourth, his big weight telling virtually just like many thought it would do in reality.
What a record Tiger Roll now boasts – two wins in the real thing and a win and two places in three virtual runnings.
Watching it all unfold from his South Wales base was Williams. Potters Corner would have been one of the big hopes after winning the Welsh National at Chepstow in December.
Williams said: ‘It was great and I think it stands racing in good stead. It has given people something to cheer. I have had people messaging me who don’t have much interest in the sport and they have been watching. We are all going through tough times and everyone is stuck in the house. There is some absolute rubbish on the telly so it is good to be able to give people something to watched that they have enjoyed.
Potters Corner would have been one of the big hopes after winning the Welsh National
Betting on the Grand National has provoked some controversy despite the rules being laid out
‘He’s been a great horse for us. Hopefully, he can go to Aintree next year.’
Betting on the Virtual Grand National has provoked some controversy despite the Betting and Gaming Council insisting that rules had been laid down for all betting companies.
In a response to a letter from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm which described betting on the race as ‘highly irresponsible’, Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, said: ‘We are categorically not doing this to make money or gain customers or data.’
Hopefully, they will be as good as their word because any attempts to exploit the situation will surely be unearthed. But this looks to have been a good news story with a dead heat for first between Potters Corner and the NHS.