Some punters will tell you that a bumper in horse racing is slang for a massive win, but the phrase bumper is more commonly used as an alternative name to a National Hunt flat race. These types of races are restricted to horses that haven’t run in a flat race and are normally aged seven or under. Most of these types of races are run over distances between 13 and 20 furlongs.
Why Do National Hunt Horses Run In Bumpers?
National Hunt horses often run in bumpers to give them the experience of racing when they aren’t fast enough to run on the flat and aren’t yet strong enough to go jumping. Bumpers can be used to get them used to racing at pace while wearing a saddle and having a jockey offering them encouragement.
Bumpers are used widely by many top National Hunt trainers, including the likes of Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson in the United Kingdom and Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott in Ireland.
What Stops A Trainer Running A Good Flat Horse In A Bumper?
Horses that have run on the flat can’t run in bumpers, though horses that run in a bumper first can then go on to run on the flat if their trainers think they’re good enough.
The main reason flat trainers wouldn’t run a good flat horse in a bumper is the prize money for most bumpers is very poor and much lower than that of an average flat race. Flat horses also tend to race from the age of two, and bumpers tend to be for horses aged four and older.
However, some well-bred flat horses that didn’t make the racecourse as a young horse through injury or immaturity occasionally run in bumpers and have been known to land the odd big gamble. However, connections will do well to big amounts of money on in such races.
Are There Any Special Bumper Races?
Most National Hunt racecourses have a bumper on their cards but not many of these are special. But the winners of bumpers often go on to run in the few Listed class bumpers that are held.
Bumper winners also tend to be aimed at one of the big spring festivals if their ratings are high enough. There are lucrative prizes to be won at the Cheltenham Festival, Aintree Grand National Meeting, and the Punchestown Festival.
Should You Bet On Bumpers?
Most punters and tipsters find betting on bumpers to be a bit of a minefield. Early-season bumpers are often filled with horses that have never run before, so there’s no form to go on.
Understanding breeding can give you an insight into betting on bumpers. Some horses are bred by sires and mares that have influences for speed and these types are often near the head of the markets in bumper races.
But a lot of horses that run in bumpers are stoutly bred types that have mainly been bred to go hurdling or, more likely, chasing further down the road. Bumpers are simply a way of giving these types of horses some racecourse experience while they’re maturing to do the job they were bred for. However, plenty of horses bred to be better over the jumps win a bumper, too.
Mid-season bumpers tend to be a mix of first-time runners and horses that have already either won a bumper or run in them. Horses that have already won a bumper normally have to concede a penalty to those that haven’t, while horses can improve dramatically from their first run to their second.
Festival bumpers tend to be filled with horses that have at least won a bumper and it’s a case of trying to work out which has the best form. But this can also be tricky as Festival bumpers are often run at a much faster pace than everyday bumpers and it’s not always easy to second guess which ones will relish that stronger pace and which ones won’t.
If you really must bet on early-season bumpers, the best way is to follow the money. Watch the market closely, as there be morning gambles where connections mop up the odds as quickly as they can. Just beware that these types of gambles often snowball and the odds that you take may no longer represent value. The most interesting gambles in bumpers are often the late ones, where shrewd smaller stables allow their horses to drift all day before backing their horse late when they’re happy they’ve got to the track and are ready to land a gamble.
Do Professional Horse Racing Tipsters Bet In Bumpers?
Yes, they do sometimes, but bumpers are probably the least favourite races for all professional tipsters to try and solve. Some tipsters may tip up a runner in a bumper if they’ve had the nod from one of their contacts or they may recommend a selection in one of the Festival bumpers if they have a strong opinion.
However, tips for bumpers normally come as part of a much bigger service that will include tips for a variety of horse races.