Grand National: Virtual Insanity?….

You couldn’t make it up ….except they actually are !!

In the prolonged absence of any real sport, and in particular horse racing, bookies and TV are combining to offer some gentle entertainment (a tenner per bookie limit) by way of a Virtual Grand National at 17.15 on Saturday.

This simulation is driven by data driven algorithms overlaid by probability distributions relevant to each determining factor. That sentence may be inaccessible to most punters, the computer model itself is heavily guarded.

Thankfully there is some track record for those of us who are both National fans and punting-starved (seriously the other day the only event with odds was a Russian table tennis match). This particular algorithm has been run before each of the last 3 nationals, selecting Cause of Causes, Tiger Roll and Rathvinden as winners. Not a bad effort as they subsequently came 2nd, 1st and 3rd in the real thing.

A key here is that an algorithm is unlikely to capture some of the true uncertainties of the race. Hence it has picked three classy horses at or around 11st in the weights, each previous Cheltenham Festival winners, each as it happens Irish trained, each one in the top 4 of the betting. No Mon Momes, Rule The Worlds or Aurora’s Encores coming out of this model.

Ignoring Tiger Roll as possibly overburdened and not at his very best last time, it looks likely the algorithm will pick from previous Irish National winner Burrows Saint, previous class act Definitely Red and previous festival winner Any Second Now.

Any Second Now has a few jumping failures which the algorithm won’t like, whilst Definitely Red looks sure-fire place material but may lack enough improvement at his age and exposure to be computed as a winner.

That makes the virtual ride of Rachael Blackmore, Burrows Saint, the most likely algorithm choice and a standout bet at the odds. An impressive Irish National winner he was likely to be a standout contender in the real world, but looks even better value in a virtual world that looks likely to favour the head of the market.

One horse who could run well at a price is Kildisart. In the real world he would have needed to overcome a tough enough race when a narrow runner up at Cheltenham, and a tendency to be a sticky jumper. He doesn’t fall, he can just be a bit slow and struggle for rhythm. Both those subtleties look unlikely to be given enough, or indeed any, weighting in a simulation and he could run into a place at a huge price.


  1. Stay at Home
  2. Wash Your Hands
  3. Back Burrows Saint, 1pt win, 12/1 generally available
  4. Back Kildisart, 0.5pts each way, 50/1 generally available

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