Bookies set to announce plan to bet on 'Virtual Grand National'

Bookies set to announce plans to bet on televised ‘Virtual Grand National’ with profits going to NHS charities battling coronavirus

  • Virtual Grand National will be shown on ITV1 at 5:15pm on Saturday afternoon
  • In world devoid of live sport, interest and viewing figures could match real thing  
  • Bookmakers do not want to be seen to profit at such a testing time globally  
  • So handing profits to NHS while it fights against COVID-19 is ideal scenario  
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

The bookmaking industry are close to announcing a plan to bet on Saturday’s Virtual Reality Grand National with any profits made going to the NHS Charities Group.

The Virtual Grand National will be shown on ITV1 at 5.15pm on Saturday with the possibility that, in a world devoid of live sport, interest and viewing figures could at least match the real thing.

Sportsmail understands that discussions have taken place between major bookmakers via the Betting & Gaming Council.

Punters could have the chance to bet on the Virtual Grand National with the real one off 

Anyone placing winning bets will be paid but bookmakers do not want to be seen to profit at such a sensitive time. 

Handing profits to such a worthy charity as the NHS while it leads the fight against COVID-19 is the ideal scenario.

It is understood agreement has been sought so that all bookmakers offer the same prices and terms. There is also likely to be a maximum bet of £10.

The NHS could be given profits made by bookmakers to help the fight against coronavirus

The 40 runners and riders for the Virtual Grand National should be published in the next 24 hours.

They will be headed by Tiger Roll who would have been attempting to become the first horse to win the race for three consecutive years if the race had been run at Aintree.

The virtual race will use the latest CGI technology and algorithms to produce a result based on data including the runners’ form and going preferences.

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Warning of big job losses at Santa Anita if no racing in near future

Dozens of people could lose their jobs if Santa Anita continues without racing fixtures for a significant amount of time, an organisation has warned.

Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) predict many will be left without work, unless an agreement can be reached to restart the sport promptly at the venue.

Meetings were stopped by the Los Angeles County Health Department on March 28 to try and help prevent the spread of coronavirus, just hours before a three-day fixture.

The TOC are working with the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita and the local trainers' association to persuade the authorities to make a u-turn.

"The continuation of live racing does not present a health risk to the 1,000 plus workers on the backstretch who live in dormitories and must be at the track to support the training of 1,700 horses every day," a statement on the TOC website said.

"The revenue generated from continued live racing at Santa Anita is critical for the thoroughbred ecosystem to keep these backstretch workers employed.

"If there is a prolonged period of no racing many of these jobs will certainly be eliminated and up to 1,000 people could be added to the current LA homeless problem."

"What we are seeking is not extreme or without precedent.

"All other counties in California where live racing is conducted have accepted these arguments and are allowing live racing to continue under the strict safety precautions that we also have at Santa Anita."

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Joe Root ready to do his bit as sporting reality of coronavirus begins to bite

England captain Joe Root has admitted pay cuts for him and his international teammates will be on the table as English cricket begins assessing the financial hardships arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

With no domestic cricket likely until June, with further delays expected, the prospect of a summer without a ball being bowled is a catastrophic reality the domestic game might have to come to terms with. As such, counties are starting to put in measures to soften what could be a critical blow while the England & Wales Cricket Board assess how best to support their 18-team set-up along with other aspects of the professional and amateur game in this country.

On Thursday, Root’s county Yorkshire announced that a number of their “off-field” staff have been placed on furlough to make use of the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme. This ensures staff will be paid 80% of their salary by the government, up to £2,500. Glamorgan have confirmed similar measures are now in place.

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At present, no players at Yorkshire or in the rest of county cricket have been asked to take a pay cut. However, dialogue between the ECB and Professional Cricketers’ Association around a financial plan has included the prospect of cricketers taking a hit on their pay-packet for the good of the domestic set-up. 

Players have been discussing such measures among themselves and there is an appreciation that any willingness to defer percentages of pay should be universal, across all PCA members. Given the contrast in figures between, say, established players at Test-match counties, and youngsters coming through at small counties, it may not be as simple to apply a blanket percentage drop across the board. 

Any such a move will need to come from the top down. England’s international players are well remunerated with Test central contracts worth up to £600,000 a year and white ball deals up to £275,000. At present there are 16 players on full-time ECB deals with two – Tom Curran and Jack Leach – holding incremental contracts. 

“I’m sure at some point in the coming weeks there will be a discussion,” said Root, though he cedes his influence on those matters, at present, is minimal. “But I’m also aware they are discussions that will take place between the PCA and the ECB. That’s not my area of expertise. I think we just have to concentrate on making sure we are as fit and as ready to go as we can be for whenever we get back to playing cricket.

“I’ve been in touch with the guys at Yorkshire. Not a lot of the talk has been around money, to be honest. It’s been about trying to keep each other up, conversations flowing, have a bit of fun.

“There’s not been a huge amount of talk of money so I think the club have tried to keep things very calm within the playing group, been very clear about their stance and how they are going to go about things moving forward. They’ve said they will try to keep everyone in best communication as possible.”

While those above his head sort these deals, Root has focused on the regular day-to-day issues of ensuring his family are safe and sound alongside ensuring his England team and Yorkshire teammates have been getting by. 

Despite the indefinite stint at home, a rarity for an international cricketer who plays all three formats, aspects of the game beyond bat and ball are starting to be missed. “One of the things that you can never replicate is that dressing room environment, and building something together as a group of players,” says Root. Yet the 29-year old is making sure his spare time is not going to waste. 

Last week he joined the Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust as a patron to help in their efforts to combat coronavirus following fellow England captain, Heather Knight,  after she signed up to become an NHS volunteer. That sense of duty and renewed appreciation of the national health service is something Root hopes carries through, well-beyond the elimination of the virus. 

“It is something I have wanted to get involved in for quite a while now. Very lucky in Sheffield we have that facility. It is great what the NHS has done and how they have dealt with the situation. 

“The number of people who have volunteered is amazing and it is very special how communities have come together. It is motivating seeing how powerful it is when people come together and show support for a fantastic organisation like the NHS. We are very lucky to have it. We should appreciate it and not take it for granted. The work they are doing right now is amazing and they deserve almost the support and care they are getting. Hopefully that continues long after this pandemic finishes as well.” 

Like the rest of the country, enforced time indoors has meant sifting through the various offerings on streaming services. That includes Amazon Prime which happens to feature The Test – a docuseries following the Australia men’s side across 18 months that culminates in their World Cup and Ashes series on English soil last summer. 

Root, though, has been waiting to indulge, uncertain as to what to expect from an Australian-skewed production.  “I resisted watching that for a good while,” he says. Now, though, he has taken the plunge working and made his way through a few episodes. 

While it is helping whittle the hours of isolation away, it is also providing fuel to carry into further Ashes series ahead. 

“Whilst we were away I exhausted a lot of the shows that I wanted to watch, it’s come round to watching that now,” says Root.  “It’s been a good motivator to get back and train, get back on the bike, use it as a way of incentivising myself. I’ve only got to the start of the World Cup, so we’ll see how the rest of it unfolds.”

“A lot of the things we do in Test cricket revolves around planning for the Ashes series down under. It goes without saying that the Test championship is very important and every game carries a huge amount of weight But a lot of what we’re doing is about building for that series.”

The run-up to 2020/21’s opportunity to regain the urn could be more congested than usual with the Sri Lanka series to reschedule along with the summer’s three-Test series against West Indies and Pakistan. All three carry Test championship points which, one way or another, will need to be divvied up ahead of next year’s final. England are currently fourth on 146 points, behind New Zealand (180), Australia (296) and India (360). 

But in this hiatus, the prospect of playing again, and competing in an Ashes series, is carrying Root and the rest of the England team through, especially after the 3-1 success in South Africa at the start of the year indicated this was a side on the right track. 

“We have to use every single opportunity to build the team up to be absolutely ready for what those conditions throw at us, what Australia throws at us, on the field and off. We really use this time to ready ourselves to do something special down there because we know how challenging it can be to play there. 

“You look at some of the guys we’ve brought into the squad over the last year or so, trying to add different elements that will work in those conditions. Guys like Mark Wood, like Olly Stone, fast bowling contracts that have come in to encourage guys to go out in county cricket and bowl as quick as they can, add that X-factor to what is a talented and skilful bowling group that we’ve got at the moment. 

“If we can keep putting experience into a number of the young batters as well, give them game time, then we’re starting to build a team that has confidence, experience, is ready and hardened for the challenges Australia will throw at us.”

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‘Realise the bigger picture’: England guns brace for $400k pay cut

England’s cricket players must “realise the bigger picture” and will reportedly be expected to take a pay cut as the country’s cricket governing body (ECB) tries to deal with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 662,700 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus across the world and 30,751 have died, according to a Reuters tally, and the outbreak has brought global sport to a virtual standstill.

England’s tour of Sri Lanka was cancelled earlier this month and the ECB announced no professional cricket will be played until the end of May.

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England’s home Test series against West Indies and Pakistan and limited overs series with Australia from June to August are also at risk of being postponed or cancelled if the situation does not improve, leading to a further loss of revenue.

“We’re looking at everything about how the game can make savings,” an ECB spokesman was quoted as saying by Britain’s The Times newspaper on Sunday.

“There’s a formal process to go through with centrally contracted players but the game needs to pull together at this time. We believe the players realise the bigger picture.”

English players on central contracts have their salaries paid in full by the ECB, who awarded 10 test contracts and 12 white-ball contracts in September last year.

The Times reported players such as Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler — who play for England in all three formats — would be expected to take pay cuts of approximately STG200,000 ($A400,000) during the three-month shutdown.

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Originally published as‘Realise the bigger picture’: England guns brace for $400k pay cut

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Addeybb and Young Rascal chasing reduced prize money

William Haggas’ Addeybb and Young Rascal are both set to run for reduced prize money at the championship meeting in Sydney next month, because of the economic impact of coronavirus.

Addeybb’s target, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, has been halved in prize money to A$2million (£1m) – and likewise, Young Rascal will be racing for A$1m, instead of A$2m, in the Sydney Cup.

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Alastair Cook prepared to write off County Championship season over coronavirus

Former England captain Alastair Cook says he would rather the County Championship was not played at all this season rather than attempting to hold a dramatically condensed campaign.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have made the decision that no professional cricket will be played before 28 May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That means that the County Championship season, which was due to begin on 12 April, faces a lengthy delay, and raises questions over how the schedule will look should the season begin later in the year.

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Tom Harrison, chief executive officer at the ECB, has said that the “most financially important forms of the game” will be prioritised, with the T20 Blast and the inaugural season of The Hundred the most likely competitions to be retained in a slimmed-down schedule.

That puts the Royal London One-Day Cup and the County Championship in doubt, and Cook, who won the Division One title with Essex last season, believes a shortened season would lose value.

“In this year, over the next six months, the bigger picture is the most important,” Cook told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Whatever happens, if we do play any sort of cricket – which hopefully we will – what I hope is that they don’t try and have a six-game County Championship or something like that.

“I would rather have one or two full tournaments, because if you do then play that tournament or two tournaments, it is so much more rewarding to win it.

“If there is not time for a meaningful County Championship, say three or four games, there is probably not much sense in us having it.

“I would rather concentrate on two full tournaments rather than saying: ‘We have four tournaments that we need to play, let’s get them all in even if we have to shorten them.’ I think you would rather have two tournaments played full length so that the there is meaningful cricket at the end of it.”

Cook, 35 and England’s all-time record run-scorer, is set to be part of the Essex squad again this season as they bid to retain their Division One and T20 Blast trophies. But he admits that the squad are simply having to play a waiting game to see if and when the season might get up and running.

“We just don’t know, do we? And as an Essex squad we are just doing what everyone else is doing,” Cook said.

“We are just waiting to see when we are allowed back into the county ground, when we are able to meet up again and hit balls as a group. Up until that time we just have to sit and wait.”


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Derby tipped to deliver one for the ages

Castelvecchio, Shadow Hero and Warning clash again in the most anticipated renewal of the $2 million ATC Australian Derby (2400m) in many years.

Rosehill Guineas winner Castelvecchio was dynamic last start and is back to top form at just the right time for Saturday’s three-year-old classic at Royal Randwick.

But he won’t lack for opposition in the Derby with Shadow Hero, winner of the Spring Champion Stakes and Randwick Guineas already this season, having beaten Castelvecchio home in three of their four clashes. And Warning is the proven stayer of the trio having won the Victoria Derby with real authority last spring.

Castelvecchio bounced back to his best in the Rosehill Guineas. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Since the ATC Australian Derby was switched from spring to autumn in 1979, there has been only two winners of the Victoria Derby-ATC Australian Derby double – Dulcify (1979) and Mahogany (1993).

Mahogany was trained by Lee Freedman and his brother, Anthony, prepares Warning.

In the Rosehill Guineas, Castelvecchio finished too strongly for Doncaster Mile hopeful Prince Fawaz while Shadow Hero (fourth) and Warning (fifth) were doing their best work on the line.

Freedman has such confidence in Warning’s staying ability he is even considering backing up with the three-year-old in the $2 million Sydney Cup (3200m) on Day Two of The Championships at Royal Randwick on April 11.

“The Derby is certainly the plan and we may even look at a Sydney Cup following that just depending on how he’s going,’’ Freedman said.

Relucent, trained by Chris Waller, ran third in the Rosehill Guineas and is another likely ATC Australian Derby starter. Adding further depth to the field for the Randwick classic is Sherwood Forest, winner of the New Zealand Derby.

Meantime, Kiwi maestro Murray Baker has locked in a new rider for tough three-year-old Quick Thinker when the trainer aims for a fifth win in the $2 million ATC Australian Derby.

Quick Thinker was ridden by champion jockey James McDonald to a resolute win in the Group 2 $200,000 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens.

Murray Baker and @ForsmanAndrew team up with fellow Kiwi @mcacajamez to take out the TAB Tulloch Stakes with Quick Thinker… Onwards to the Derby @atc_races

But McDonald is already booked for Derby favourite Castelvecchio so Baker moved quickly to book Opie Bosson for Quick Thinker.

“Quick Thinker was pretty strong there, which is encouraging,’’ Baker said from New Zealand. “It is onto the Derby now. He’s got to go into the Derby with a chance on that run. I would love to keep McDonald because he rode (It’s A) Dundeel, but he is riding Castelvecchio.’’

Baker, who trains in partnership with Andrew Forsman these days, has already won ATC Australian Derby with Jon Snow (2017), Mongolian Khan (2015), Dundeel (2013) and Nom Du Jeu (2008).

Of this group, only Jon Snow came through the Tulloch Stakes to win the Derby.

In fact, in successive years, Jon Snow, Levendi (2018) and Angel Of Truth (2019) have completed the Tulloch Stakes-ATC Australian Derby double.

Quick Thinker ($2.70 favourite) relished the wet track conditions to win by 1¼ lengths from Zebrowski ($4) with Diasonic ($13) nearly a length away third.

Quick Thinker tuned up for the ATC Australian Derby with a strong win in the Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill Gardens. Picture: AAPSource:AAP

“The track is playing pretty heavy, you need a good, fit horse that handles it really well because they are making hard work of it,’’ McDonald said. “He is a proven wet tracker, he got through it well, he is fit and he’ll be a force to be reckoned with come the Derby.”

Quick Thinker firmed from $15 into $11 for the ATC Australian Derby where Castelvecchio remains the $3.50 favourite.

“I was worried about the distance, not much the track,’’ Baker said. “He is out of an Al Maher mare so I thought the distance might get him, but that was a good tough effort.

“It is always nice to win and that is my fifth win in this race. I won it with Our Palliser (1987), The Bill (1993), Harris Tweed (2009) and Jon Snow (2017), so it has been a good race to me.’’

Zebrowski loomed up as a winning chance halfway down the straight but he seemed uneasy in the wet track and his effort to finish second was meritorious given how hard it was for horses to make ground wider out on the track.



Mamaragan will be the only Golden Slipper placegetter in the Group 1 $1 million ATC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

Slipper winner Farnan is already in the spelling paddock and will be aimed at The Everest next spring, while runner-up Away Game is being reserved for the Percy Sykes Stakes on Day Two of The Championships.

But Mamaragan trainer John Thompson was buoyed by jockey Nash Rawiller’s confidence his colt will run a strong 1400m.

“Nash believes Mamaragan won’t have a problem with the Sires distance,’’ Thompson said.

“Mamaragan has only had the two starts, he’s still on ‘fresh’ legs, he’s come through the Golden Slipper in great order so we will press on to the Sires.’’

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In early Sires betting, Mamaragan shares favouritism at $8 with Prague and Aim.

Prague, winner of the Canonbury Stakes and Pago Pago Stakes, is also coming out of the Slipper where he was working to the line well to finish sixth.

Aim has been trained specifically with the Sires in mind, finishing third to Mamaragan in the Skyline Stakes then fourth to Prague in the Pago Pago.

Over the last decade, the fillies have mixed it with the “boys” in this race with five wins – Yosei (2010), Guelph (2013), Peggy Jean (2014), Yankee Rose (2016) and El Dorado Dreaming (2018).

Hungry Heart, a daughter of English superhorse Frankel, ran a close fifth in the Golden Slipper and is a chance to run in the Sires. Blue Diamond placegetter Personal struggled on the wet track in the Slipper when she finished down the track but is also likely to run on Saturday.

Originally published asDerby tipped to deliver one for the ages

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Will Tiger Roll win virtual Grand National? ITV to show CGI race

Will Tiger Roll win the virtual Grand National? ITV plans to broadcast race which features latest CGI technology on April 4 after Aintree’s famous steeplechase was cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic

  • The coronavirus caused Aintree’s famous Grand Nation to be cancelled this year
  • Tiger Roll has missed out on the chance to run for a record three-straight titles 
  • However, his virtual version still has a chance in the virtual Grand National 
  • ITV are set to broadcast the CGI race on April 4th on the famous course  
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We will never know if Tiger Roll would have won a third Grand National at Aintree on April 4 but we will get to see if he wins the 2020 Virtual Grand National with ITV planning to broadcast the race that features the latest CGI technology at 5pm a week on Saturday.

The TV special will feature the 40 horses and riders who were most likely to run in the Aintree spectacular and will try to answer the key question in racing.

Could the Tiger have won the 2020 race and entered the history books as a three times back-to-back winner?

ITV are set to show the virtual Grand National after the real version was scrapped 

Rob McLoughlin, Executive Producer, said: ‘We use the latest CGI technology and algorithms and were ready to go ahead as a forerunner to the big race but now we want to cheer the nation up and ask the computer if history could have been made.

‘It’s very sad not to have the real race but this is fascinating and fun and as proven since 2017 incredibly accurate.’

The special will also pit Red Rum and Tiger Roll against each other in the Race of Champions alongside 38 other champions who will race over the real Aintree jumps and famous course.

Tiger Roll missed out on the chance to enter the history books by winning three-straight years

The programme will be hosted with guests including Richard Pitman, the jockey who finished second on gallant loser Crisp behind Red Rum in the epic 1973 Grand National.

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More than 200 BHA staff laid off in coronavirus emergency plan

More than 200 staff at the British Horseracing Authority will be laid off with the aim of saving the horse racing industry £1 million a month.

The cutbacks, announced as part of an emergency financial response to the coronavirus pandemic, have been made so the sport can be in a position to resume on May 1.

Executives spent Thursday finalising the plans after a meeting of the BHA board.

Chief Executive Nick Rust then informed staff of the decision.

Most of those affected are raceday officials, but the cuts have also hit Great British Racing, the sport's official marketing and promotional body, as well as its international service.

All BHA staff will have their salaries reduced as part of the plan.

Employees will be stood down using the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Chairperson Annamarie Phelps said: "Our board considered a range of options for how to maintain the most appropriate team that would allow us to carry out our role in the industry’s crisis response.

"That includes the urgent financial work we are doing alongside industry colleagues, engaging effectively with government and making sure we have the right plan and the right resources in place to start racing again when we can.

"In particular, whilst the current suspension is to the end of April, we will ensure that racing is ready to resume from the 1st of May onwards, if it proves possible to do so.

“The board was briefed on the impact of this crisis across the whole industry and took this into account in its decision-making.

"We were unanimous that the package of options agreed was the right way forward at this time."

Most projects BHA staff were working on have been paused, including the whip consultation, which was due to be concluded by October.

A programme of cost savings linked to a reduction in the normal activity supporting racing is within the framework.

It is estimated nearly £1 million a month could be saved, a third of the BHA’s normal monthly budget.

“My message to all our staff is that I’m incredibly proud of the work you have been doing to support the industry," Ms Phelps added.

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Tom Marquand looks for more G1 glory in Australia

Tom Marquand believes his mount Southern France is an “ideal sort” for Saturday’s Kia Tancred Stakes as the rider seeks a Group One prize for the second successive week at Rosehill in Australia.

The jockey claimed a first top-level victory aboard the William Haggas-trained Addeybb at the Sydney track and has another chance as he teams up with the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained five-year-old.

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