The charitable side of: The Grand National

Nathalie Thomas

The world's most famous horse race has its first charity partnership this year - and it's not with an animal charity.

It seems unlikely that a sporting event could divide the charity world, but in the case of this Saturday's Grand National it might be possible.

The Imagine Appeal, which is linked to Alder Hey Children's Hospital, has been selected as the beneficiary of the event's first charity partnership - much to the chagrin of animal rights group Animal Aid.

Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, says he is "disappointed" with the Imagine Appeal's decision to ally itself with the Grand National, which, in the animal rights arena at least, has always been a source of contention. "We would urge all charities to steer clear of it and boycott it," he said.

The organisation is planning what it describes as an "eye-catching" presence at the event and will be also be organising protests outside betting shops.

This probably won't discourage the millions who turn out or have a flutter on the Grand National every year, however.

For the first time, enthusiastic betters will be comforted by the fact that their hard-earned cash will help line the pockets of a good cause as well as those of the bookies. People placing bets through totesport will also be able to donate to the Imagine Appeal.

And it's not just the gamblers who are getting involved. Several of the jockeys will spend a morning visiting the children on Alder Hey's cancer unit.

One event that neither charity should have an issue with is the Imagine Appeal National - an internet race involving digital horses and jockeys.

No injured animals here - the only thing taking a fall is your wallet.

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