Back in April 2019, we looked at a special event held on ITV Racing at the famous Grand National meeting at Aintree that year. Inspired Entertainment, who produce a large number of Virtual Sports events, created a Virtual Grand National, which simulated the entire race.
ITV Racing used this to run two different Grand National events, the first was a simulation of the race in 2019 (which ITV Racing had also done the previous year, when the winner of the simulated race, Tiger Roll, went on to win the real race) and the second was a historic ‘fantasy’ Grand National, featuring some of the most famous winners of the race from different eras (which was won by the legendary Red Rum).
At the time we speculated whether the software would be made available for customers to bet on at some point, or whether it would remain something used once a year on TV and the answer to that is now here thanks to bet365 Sport releasing another Virtual Horseracing option, the Grand National at Aintree Park.
What is the Grand National at Aintree Park Virtual?
While on the TV program, the Virtual Grand National ran the full race, the version on bet365 Sport offers something slightly different. You do get to see the start of the race, but after the start, the highlights package then cuts to the 22nd of the 30 fences of the race, which is the famous Bechers Brook.
At this point, all 40 runners are still in the race, but over the remaining eight fences, horses can fall, pull up, refuse, unseat their rider as well as move positions through the field, just as in the real race itself.
From the 22nd fence onward, the remainder of the race is shown in full in the highlights package and the great thing about this is that it uses all the famous fences and landmarks around the famous Aintree Course, including fences like Foinavon, the Canal Turn and the famous elbow at the run in to the finishing line where there have been so many exciting moments in the history of the race.
What betting is available on the race?
There are essentially two types of betting available on the race. The first section is Fixed Odds betting, and this lists the 40 different runners in the race.
The runners are grouped together in ten groups of four. With each group having their own colour. Each group of horses has horses of similar odds, so Group 1 all have cherry and yellow checked shirts and the odds on these selections tend to range from around 8/1, up to 11/1. The second group of four have blue shirts with a white star on and they tend to be from 12/1 to 16/1.
Groups of horses can overlap each other with the same odds, and you get a fantastic range of odds from the shorter priced favourites in the race in the first groups, while the longer odds selections, which go up to 150/1, coming in the latter groups.
You can back these horses to win and also as an each way bet, which pays out a quarter of the odds for the first five places in the race, which is a very tempting bet especially if you like betting on the outsiders.
The other type of bets available are all based on the race card of 40 runners in the race. There are essentially three other types of bets you can make on the race.
The first is a bet on whether the winning horse will have an odd or even number on the race card, and this is essentially an even money bet (or thereabouts).
You can also bet on whether the winner of the race will be one of the favourites (numbers 1-20) or one of the outsiders (numbers 21-40).
Lastly, you can also bet on which of the ten groups of horses in the race the winner will come from and these bets offer you a return if any one of the four horses in your group wins the race. The odds on these range from around 2/1, up to 40/1 for one of the last four in the outsider’s group to win the race.
The horses are simply a number of random names selected to make the 40-strong field and although some may resemble or be copies of real horses, that is merely a coincidence. You won’t find a race that contains Red Rum or Tiger Roll for example.
How does the Grand National Virtual look and sound?
The first thing to note about the Grand National game is that its attention to detail is sensational. The full Aintree Racecourse is recreated in painstaking detail, with the fences replicas of the real race track and all the main features of the track shown, even down to the ambulances at the side of the track and the grandstands packed with throngs of people cheering on the winning horses.
In terms of realism, for ne this is the most realistic of all the different Virtual Horseracing games available you can play at bet365 Sport (of which there are now a total of five different options to pick from)
If there is one thing that could perhaps be improved then it is the commentary. The commentator doesn’t mention any horse by name or number, only noting that some horses pull up, fall or unseat their rider. It would be nice if the commentator did mention at least the number of the horse, if only because it would then allow those with poor eyesight the chance to understand what is going on in the race.
How tough is it to pick a winner?
For me, the Grand National Virtual is more for punters that love this particular race and the fact that you can sometimes see a real outsider, if not win the race, then at least finish in the each way positions to offer the punter the chance of a decent return.
To be fair, this Virtual does replicate that nicely. In my time reviewing the game, while the majority of winners came from the first two or three groups of lower priced runners, there were numerous times that a high priced outsider came in one of the top five paying places in the race, including a number of runners at odds of 100/1 or greater.
With 40 runners, it is never going to be easy to pick a winner, but the group betting options offer a better chance for punters who like to use them, but I feel Virtual Grand National is one definitely more for those who like to back the big money outside bets each way.
However, it is another fantastic Virtual Sports offering and one that enriches Virtual Horseracing a great deal.