Of course, the 2020 Grand National was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic but, three weeks before the event was due to take place, Burrows Saint was second-favourite, behind only Tiger Roll, and had been well touted as one of the more likely winners. However, Burrows Saint is still a young horse and, granted that the last seven-year-old to win the Grand National was Bogskar in 1940, the enforced delay in his Aintree challenge may not be altogether a bad thing.
Owned by Susannah Ricci and trained, in County Carlow, Ireland, by Willie Mullins, Burrows Saint first emerged as a bona fide Grand National contender when justifying favouritism in the Irish Grand National, over 3 miles 5 furlongs, at Fairyhouse in April, 2019. He subsequently ran creditably in defeat, in two Grade One events, the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris at Auteil and the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse, before reverting to hurdles in the Bet With Tote At Punchestown Hurdle on New Year’s Eve.
On the latter occasion, despite being disadvantaged by the race conditions, Burrows Saint was enterprising ridden by Rachael Blackmore and, having made all the running, only had to be pushed out on the run-in to win, easily, by three-and-a-quarter lengths. Bookmaker Paddy Power responded by cutting his odds for the Grand National from 20/1 to 14/1 so, while the 2021 Grand National is obviously some way off, the 25/1 available ante post, at the time of writing, could yet represent some value.
The Grand National in variably attracts whole host of once-a-year punters dreaming of striking it rich by backing an outsider at hugely rewarding odds. However, such wishful thinkers would do well to remember that, in 172 runnings of the celebrated steeplechase, just five horses have won at treble figure odds. The last two 100/1 winners were Mon Mome (2009) and Foinavon (1967), while further back in Grand National history Caughoo (1947), Gregalach (1929) and Tipperary Tim (1928) also scored equally unlikely victories. It is also worth noting that Tipperary Tim and Foinavon took advantage of mid-race pile-ups and Gregalach and Caughoo were part of the two largest Grand National fields in history, 66 and 57, respectively.
Four horses have won the Grand National at odds of 66/1, the last being Auroras Encore (2013), while the last of the four 50/1 winners was Last Suspect (1985). Seven horses have prevailed at odds of 40/1, the last being Royal Athlete (1995) but, interestingly, all four 33/1 winners, the last of which was Rule The World (2016), have been victorious since the turn of the twenty-first century. So, percentage-wise, in 172 runnings of the Grand National, just 24 winners, or roughly 14%, have been returned at odds of 33/1 or longer. If we also consider 25/1 winners, of which Many Clouds (2015) was the last of fourteen, the number of winners increases to 38, or roughly 22%.
Perhaps the best known virtual horse race is the Virtual Grand National, which was first introduced in 2017, but took centre stage in 2020 after the real-life Grand National was called off due to the coronavirus. Like all virtual horse races, the Virtual Grand National is a computer simulation; computer-generated imagery (CGI) is employed to create a faithful rendition of racecourse, runners and riders and the result is determined by a sophisticated, step-by-step list of rules, technically known as an algorithm.
As in a real-world race, the odds offered on each horse are inversely proportional to its theoretical chance of winning, but the outcome is determined by a regulated random number generator (RNG). As the name suggests, a RNG is designed to generate a sequence of numbers without any discernible pattern but, in a virtual horse race, the favourite has a higher ‘weighting’ in the RNG – and, therefore, more chance of winning – than the second favourite and so on throughout the field.
The Virtual Grand National may be the best known virtual horse race, but virtual horse racing is everyday occurrence with bookmakers, on the High Street and online, in Britain. In fact, virtual horse races, Flat or Jumps, typically take place every few minutes, with win, each-way, forecast and tricast betting available.
The first British Classic to be screened on terrestrial television was the Derby at Epsom. Indeed, the 1931 renewal of the ‘Blue Riband’ event, staged on Wednesday, June 3, was the subject of the first television outside broadcast or, in other words, the first television programme broadcast live, on location, anywhere in the world. The Baird Television Company, under the auspices of John Logie Baird, the Scottish engineer who became known as ‘The Father of Television’, provided the pictures, which were transmitted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) via the medium-wave radio transmitter at Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire. BBC Radio had first broadcast the Derby, along with the Grand National, in 1927, but the BBC Television Service was not officially launched until November, 1936.
In any event, the ‘King’s Birthday Derby’, run on the sixty-sixth birthday of King George V, was won by the 7/2 favourite, Cameronian, owned by J. Arthur Dewar, trained by Fred Darling and ridden by Freddie Fox. Television viewers were treated to a thrilling finish, with the 2,000 Guineas winner edging out well-fancied rivals Orpern and Sandwich by three-quarters of a length and the same. The following year, still some years before the advent of public television broadcasts, the Derby was shown, live, on closed-circuit television at the now demolished Metropole Kinema, in Victoria Street, central London.