Major betting operators in the UK have lined up to support the British National Health Service by donating all profits from bets taken on this weekend's Virtual Grand National to NHS Charities Together.

With racing in Britain suspended until at least the end of April due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year's running of the world's greatest steeplechase will not take place.

But ITV has announced plans last week to air a 'virtual' version, using the latest CGI technology and algorithms, in a special programme on Saturday, with the race taking place at 5.15pm, replicating the start time of the real thing.

Previous runnings of the virtual National have been shown to be remarkably accurate, and could help answer whether Tiger Roll would have emulated Red Rum in winning for the third time.

The initiative has the backing of Betting and Gaming Council members including bet365, William Hill, Flutter Entertainment, Sky Bet, GVC, BetFred, Betway, BetVictor, JenningsBet and Inspired Entertainment.

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: "With the UK understandably and rightly in lockdown, unfortunately the Grand National can't take place. However, the virtual Grand National will be the closest we can get to creating one of those moments when we can all come together in celebration, not just for the world's greatest sporting events, but for the NHS heroes working on the front line to keep us all safe.

Stakes will be limited to £10 per horse, per customer for the event or £10 each-way per horse. In addition, the Tote will be providing a pool on the race and donating profits to charity.

William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said: "The Grand National is the one race in the calendar where millions of people have their one bet of the year.

"Should they decide to transfer their allegiance to the virtual version, it could help to raise hundreds of thousands for charity."

AP McCoy - who famously won the Aintree spectacular at the 15th attempt aboard Don't Push It in 2010 - said: "Most of all it's a great cause - you wouldn't expect anything else, but it's good of the bookmakers to be doing it.

"For those people that are working in the NHS, doing the work they are at the moment, it must be horrific, what they are seeing at times.

"Hopefully those people on the way home can tune in and see the money being raised. The way the world is at the moment sport is obviously second fiddle, but a little break and something might help everyone and it's for a great cause in the NHS."

The 20-time champion jockey, who is an ambassador for William Hill, added: "I'd have gone for Burrows Saint in the real one, I just thought having won the Irish Grand National last year he'd have plenty going for him.

"If we were being realistic I'd say Burrows Saint, but a better story would be Tiger Roll winning - I'd like Tiger Roll to win the Virtual Grand National. I hope none of them get bad rides!"