The Virtual Grand National raised £2.6m for NHS Charities Together on Saturday.
The 2020 edition of the Randox Health Grand National was cancelled because of coronavirus and replaced by a virtual race whose final rankings were determined by an algorithm.
The race was won by Potters Corner. Bookmakers donated profits from losing bets to NHS Charities Together, which represents 143 NHS charities nationwide.
The association has launched a coronavirus appeal to support NHS staff during the emergency. The appeal has a goal of £100m and has raised £19m so far according to its Virgin Money Giving page. NHS Charities Together says this does not include offline donations that keep coming through and that the fundraised total is constantly growing.
The first round of grant applications for the appeal’s funds opened on 30 March. Member charities can apply for grants up to £5,000 that can be used to support NHS staff in a range of ways, from well-being packs to travel and parking costs.
The Jockey Club, which organises the Grand National, also launched a “My Stake For Their Sake” campaign, encouraging Grand National fans to donate the money they would have bet had the event gone ahead.
Ellie Orton, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, said: “We’re thrilled to receive this support for the NHS. We’re living in an unprecedented time where people coming together like this makes a huge difference. We’re so proud and in awe of NHS staff and volunteers as they work tirelessly to save lives and we want to ensure their wellbeing is paramount too.”
Dickon White, regional director of Jockey Club Racecourses North West, said: “We’re delighted to come together to help to raise crucial funds for the NHS by encouraging Randox Health Grand National fans to donate their usual bet to NHS Charities Together.
“Our amazing NHS staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to care for Covid-19 patients and we want to do our bit to show our gratitude and let them to know that racing is behind them. We’re obviously extremely disappointed to have to cancel the Randox Health Grand National this year, but we can all get behind this cause much the same as people get behind the National each year.”
The Jockey Club is also giving away 10,000 free tickets for the first day of the 2021 Grand National to NHS staff.
Virtual Grand National said that an estimated 4.8 million people watched the race on Saturday.