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DID YOU CORNER THE COMPUTER GRAND NATIONAL WINNER? Red Rum and Potters Corner were the winners of Grand Nationals past and present in the ITV simulation yesterday. Daqman gives his view.


⭕ I prefer the real thing. The Virtual Grand National was a welcome break in the clouds hanging over racing, if lacking pizzazz in its presentation, with its mix of ‘look how clever we are’ but ‘should we really be betting on this.’

In fact, its model was too close to the dreary and lifeless virtual meetings that pervade the betting shops between races, though you can understand why some punters prefer them to the dreary and lifeless five-and-six-runner fields of bleak midwinter or the hard ground of a hot summer.

What I very much hope will happen after the lay-off is that, in a condensed fixture list, the quality stuff will be in thicker layers. So much so that TV presenters will have no time to compete for banalities and bonhomie.

But I can’t wait to see the best of the field in yesterday’s simulation Grand National meet for the real thing next April. With the Irish Grand National pencilled in for the autumn, we will surely see some of them at Fairyhouse later this year.

Though I tipped the winner, Potters Corner, for value at 18-1 on ITV yesterday, it was irritating to hear talk of the better ground and then see success go to a horse who won both his big races, the Midlands Grand National and the Welsh Grand National, on heavy.

For real, Davy Russell must have been kicking himself that the ground would have been so perfect for Tiger Roll’s treble bid, only for the race to be taken away.

In the virtual world, Davy was not well pleased with the computer, which sent Tiger Roll on during much of the race. That would have been suicide in reality.

The winner, second and third – Potters Corner, Walk In The Mill and Any Second Now – were all lightweights, so that the first three were racing off 10st 6lb, 10st 4lb and 10st 6lb., as if the going was indeed soft-heavy.

Whatever the ground, lightweights do not dominate in Grand Nationals since the gradual modification of the Aintree course: the injection of quality and the easier track has meant that eight of the last 11 winners have carried 10st 11lb or more. A rick in the algorithms there.

Previous results of the real National were recognised in that Walk In The Mill and Tiger Roll (fourth yesterday) were in at the finish but that means Anibale Fly (twice in the first five and better off at the weights) should have been there, too.

Perhaps he drew a short straw, randomly picked in the algorithms as ‘having an off day’. He certainly ran no sort of race.

Three of the first four in the ‘virtual’ were 10-year-olds, whereas the new injection of quality has seen, in reality, successive winners aged 8, 9, 8, 8, 9 in the last five years.

Last point, a tick in the box for the ITV effort. It had the seven-year-old Burrows Saint finishing fifth. That’s just what I would have expected of the young Irish National winner in the real race. Next year at Aintree he’ll be eight.

⭕ RACE OF CHAMPIONS Spoiled because it tried to go back to 1899. How on earth can you quantify and compare the form of Manifesto, albeit a dual winner, alongside such as Tiger Roll?

Red Rum beat them both in yesterday’s simulation of past National winners but, in fact, Manifesto was at the end of the days of ploughed fields and fences like straw stacks; Red Rum was a star among old-fashioned galloping stayers of the great days of the National, Tiger Roll representative of a quality elite under the new regime. Ok, it was just for fun!

Incidentally, when Manifesto won in 1899, the Czar of Russia had just issued his Manifesto for General Peace. The winner of the Lincolnshire Handicap that year was General Peace. The losers? Scores of bookmakers who laid the coincidence Spring Double went bust.

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