When does the National Hunt season start?

The National Hunt season is one of the biggest events in the UK’s horse racing calendar. It runs from October to April each year and is a series of races that involve horses jumping over obstacles like hurdles and fences. The season is split into two parts: the first part runs from October to December, while the second part runs from January to April.

The National Hunt season is a popular event for hors racing enthusiasts and bettors alike. It includes some of the biggest races in the UK, such as the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National. The season also features a range of different races, from novice hurdles for younger horses to handicap chases for more experienced runners. The season is a chance for jockeys and trainers to showcase their skills and for horses to prove their worth on the track.

Key Takeaways

  • The National Hunt season runs from October to April and is split into two parts.
  • The season includes some of the biggest races in the UK, such as the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National.
  • The National Hunt season features a range of different races, from novice hurdles to handicap chases, and is a chance for jockeys, trainers, and horses to showcase their skills.

Understanding National Hunt Season

National Hunt, also known as jumps racing, is a type of horse racing that involves horses jumping over obstacles such as hurdles and fences. The National Hunt season in the UK typically runs from May 1st to late April the following year, and is divided into two distinct periods – summer jumping and the core winter season.

During the summer jumping period, which runs from May to September, there are fewer races and the focus is on smaller meetings. The core winter season, which runs from October to April, is where the majority of the National Hunt races take place. The winter season is also when the bigger meetings, such as the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National, are held.

The reason for defining the National Hunt season with specific calendar dates is so that an annual Champion Jockey and Champion Trainer can be recognised. The Jump Jockeys Championship begins at the start of July and runs to Finals Day at Sandown Park towards the end of April the following year.

Most of the National Hunt season takes place in the winter when the softer ground makes jumping less dangerous for the horses racing. The horses are much cheaper, as the majority are geldings and have no breeding value.

In order to participate in National Hunt racing, horses must be at least three years old and have a certain level of experience. There are also specific rules and regulations that must be followed when hunting and shooting wildlife, including restrictions on what can be hunted, when it can be done, and what equipment can be used.

Overall, the National Hunt season is an exciting and challenging time for both horses and jockeys alike. With a range of races and events taking place throughout the year, there is always something for fans of jumps racing to look forward to.

Key Races and Events

The National Hunt season in the UK is packed with exciting races and events that attract both horse racing enthusiasts and casual spectators. Here are some of the most popular and prestigious races and events in the National Hunt calendar:

Grand National

The Grand National is undoubtedly one of the most famous horse races in the world, attracting millions of viewers both in the UK and abroad. It takes place annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool and features a gruelling course of 30 fences over a distance of 4 miles and 514 yards. The race is open to horses aged seven and older, and the prize money for 2023 was £1 million.

Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is a four-day event that takes place in March at Cheltenham Racecourse in Gloucestershire. It features several Grade 1 races, including the Champion Hurdle, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the Stayers’ Hurdle. The festival attracts some of the best horses, jockeys, and trainers in the UK and Ireland and is a highlight of the National Hunt season.

King George VI Chase

The King George VI Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase that takes place annually on Boxing Day (26th December) at Kempton Park Racecourse in Surrey. The race is open to horses aged four and older and covers a distance of 3 miles. The King George VI Chase is one of the most prestigious races in the National Hunt calendar and has been won by some of the greatest horses in history, including Kauto Star and Desert Orchid.

Tingle Creek Chase

The Tingle Creek Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase that takes place annually in early December at Sandown Park Racecourse in Surrey. The race is open to horses aged four and older and covers a distance of 2 miles. The Tingle Creek Chase is known for attracting some of the best two-mile chasers in the National Hunt circuit and is a popular event among racing fans.

Scottish Grand National

The Scottish Grand National is a Grade 3 steeplechase that takes place annually in April at Ayr Racecourse in Scotland. The race is open to horses aged five and older and covers a distance of 4 miles and 110 yards. The Scottish Grand National is one of the most prestigious races in Scotland and attracts some of the best horses from the UK and Ireland.

Welsh National

The Welsh National is a Grade 3 steeplechase that takes place annually in late December at Chepstow Racecourse in Wales. The race is open to horses aged four and older and covers a distance of 3 miles and 6 furlongs. The Welsh National is one of the most important races in Wales and is known for attracting some of the best staying chasers in the UK.

Punchestown Festival

The Punchestown Festival is a five-day event that takes place annually in late April at Punchestown Racecourse in Ireland. The festival features several Grade 1 races, including the Punchestown Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle, and the Champion Novice Hurdle. The Punchestown Festival is one of the most important events in the Irish National Hunt calendar and attracts some of the best horses, jockeys, and trainers from Ireland and the UK.

Betfair Chase

The Betfair Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase that takes place annually in November at Haydock Park Racecourse in Merseyside. The race is open to horses aged five and older and covers a distance of 3 miles and 1½ furlongs. The Betfair Chase is one of the most important races in the early part of the National Hunt season and is often seen as a trial for the King George VI Chase.

Champion Hurdle

The Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 hurdle race that takes place annually in March at the Cheltenham Festival. The race is open to horses aged four and older and covers a distance of 2 miles and ½ furlong. The Champion Hurdle is one of the most prestigious hurdle races in the world and has been won by some of the greatest horses in history, including Istabraq and Hurricane Fly.

Ascot Chase

The Ascot Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase that takes place annually in February at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire. The race is open to horses aged five and older and covers a distance of 2 miles and 5 furlongs. The Ascot Chase is known for attracting some of the best two-and-a-half-mile chasers in the National Hunt circuit and is often seen as a trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Role of Jockeys and Horses

In National Hunt racing, the role of jockeys and horses is crucial. Jockeys are responsible for guiding their horses to victory, while horses must have the speed, stamina, and agility to navigate the obstacles in their path.

Jump Jockeys Championship

The Jump Jockeys Championship is a prestigious competition that recognizes the top jockeys in National Hunt racing. It begins in May and runs until the following April, with the jockey who rides the most winners during this period crowned the champion.

The championship is fiercely contested, with jockeys competing in hundreds of races throughout the season. It requires skill, dedication, and a deep understanding of the sport to come out on top.

Jockeys must also work closely with their horses to ensure they are in top condition for each race. They must know their horse’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as their preferred racing style. This information helps them make split-second decisions during races that can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

In addition to their riding skills, jockeys must also have a deep understanding of the rules and regulations of National Hunt racing. They must know how to navigate the various obstacles on the course, as well as how to handle their horse in different situations.

Overall, the role of jockeys and horses in National Hunt racing is vital to the success of the sport. Their skill, dedication, and teamwork make each race an exciting and thrilling spectacle for fans around the world.

Betting on National Hunt Season

National Hunt season is a popular time for sports betting enthusiasts, with many bookmakers offering a wide range of odds and markets for punters to choose from. Here are some tips for those looking to bet on the National Hunt season:

Understanding the Races

Before placing any bets, it’s important to understand the different types of races that take place during the National Hunt season. There are three main types of races: hurdles, chases, and bumpers. Hurdles involve horses jumping over a series of obstacles, while chases are similar but the obstacles are larger and more challenging. Bumpers are flat races that feature no obstacles.

Choosing a Sportsbook

When it comes to betting on the National Hunt season, it’s important to choose a reputable sportsbook. Paddy Power and William Hill are two popular options for UK punters, offering competitive odds and a wide range of markets. Betfair is also a popular choice, with its betting exchange allowing punters to bet against each other rather than the bookmaker.

Understanding the Odds

Understanding the odds is crucial for any successful betting strategy. Odds can be displayed in different formats, including fractional, decimal, and American. It’s important to understand how to read and convert between these formats to ensure you’re getting the best value for your bets.

Types of Bets

There are many different types of bets available for National Hunt racing, including win, place, and each-way bets. Tricast bets are also popular, where punters must correctly predict the first three finishers in a race. It’s important to understand the different types of bets and their potential payouts before placing any wagers.

Overall, betting on the National Hunt season can be an exciting and potentially profitable experience for punters who take the time to understand the races, odds, and types of bets available.

National Hunt Racing in Different Countries

National Hunt in Ireland

National Hunt racing is a popular sport in Ireland, with the season running from May to April. The Irish National Hunt season is similar to the UK’s National Hunt season, with the highlight being the Cheltenham Festival in March. The festival attracts Irish horses and trainers, and it is considered one of the biggest events in the National Hunt calendar.

The Irish Grand National is another major event in the National Hunt season, held at Fairyhouse Racecourse on Easter Monday. The race is open to horses aged five years and older and is run over a distance of 3 miles and 5 furlongs. The race attracts a large crowd and is considered one of the most prestigious National Hunt races in Ireland.

National Hunt in France

National Hunt racing in France is known as Steeplechase and is a popular sport in the country. The season runs from September to June, with the highlight being the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris held at Auteuil Racecourse. The race is run over a distance of 6,000 metres and is considered one of the most prestigious National Hunt races in France.

The Prix La Haye Jousselin is another major event in the National Hunt calendar, held at Auteuil Racecourse in November. The race is run over a distance of 5,800 metres and is open to horses aged five years and older. The race attracts a large crowd and is considered one of the biggest events in the National Hunt season.

Overall, National Hunt racing is a popular sport in Ireland and France, with both countries having a strong tradition in the sport. The National Hunt season in both countries attracts large crowds and is considered one of the most exciting times in the horse racing calendar.

Types of Races and Obstacles

National Hunt racing features three different types of races: hurdles, chases, and bumpers. These races are run during the National Hunt season in the UK and Ireland, which starts and ends in line with the Jump Jockeys Championship.

Hurdles

Hurdles are the smallest of the obstacles that a horse will be asked to negotiate during a National Hunt race. They are typically made of a series of lightweight brushwood frames and are placed at a height of 3ft 6in (1.07m) above the ground.

Chases

Chases, also known as steeplechases, are races in which horses jump larger obstacles than in hurdle races. These obstacles include ditches and fences, and are usually made of birch or plastic. The height of the obstacles can vary, but they are typically around 4ft 6in (1.37m) high.

Bumpers

Bumpers, also known as National Hunt Flat races, are races in which horses run on a flat track without any obstacles. These races are typically used to give young horses experience before they start competing in hurdle or chase races.

In National Hunt racing, horses are required to jump obstacles over distances ranging from two miles to more than four and a quarter miles. The type of obstacle a horse will encounter depends on the type of race it is competing in. For example, hurdle races feature smaller obstacles than chase races.

Overall, National Hunt racing is a thrilling and challenging sport that requires both horse and jockey to be in peak physical condition. With its variety of race types and obstacles, it offers a unique and exciting experience for both spectators and participants alike.

Key Venues in National Hunt Season

The National Hunt season is a thrilling time for horse racing enthusiasts, with many key venues hosting exciting races throughout the season. Here are some of the top venues to look out for during the National Hunt season:

Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham Racecourse is one of the most famous venues in the National Hunt season. It hosts the Cheltenham Festival in March, which is the highlight of the National Hunt calendar. The festival is a four-day event, featuring some of the most prestigious races in the sport, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Sandown Park Racecourse

Sandown Park is another iconic venue in the National Hunt season. It hosts the Jump Jockeys Championship, which runs from the start of July to the end of April the following year. The finals day takes place at Sandown Park, where the annual Champion Jockey and Champion Trainer are recognised.

Wetherby Racecourse

Wetherby Racecourse is a popular venue in the North of England, hosting many key races throughout the National Hunt season. It is home to the Charlie Hall Chase, which takes place in November and is one of the most important races in the early part of the season.

Exeter Racecourse

Exeter Racecourse is another popular venue in the National Hunt season, hosting many key races throughout the year. It is home to the Haldon Gold Cup, which takes place in November and is one of the first major races of the season.

Newmarket Racecourse

Newmarket Racecourse is best known for hosting the prestigious Flat racing event, the Epsom Derby. However, it also hosts some key National Hunt races, including the Adnams Mildmay Novices’ Chase and the Adnams Mildmay Handicap Chase.

York Racecourse

York Racecourse is another venue that is better known for its Flat racing events. However, it also hosts some important National Hunt races, including the Betfred Ebor Handicap Chase.

Epsom Downs Racecourse

Epsom Downs Racecourse is home to the famous Epsom Derby, which is one of the most prestigious Flat races in the world. However, it also hosts some key National Hunt races, including the Epsom Handicap Chase.

Group 1 Races

In addition to these key venues, there are also several important Group 1 races that take place throughout the National Hunt season. These include the King George VI Chase, the Tingle Creek Chase, and the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Overall, the National Hunt season offers plenty of excitement for horse racing fans, with many key venues hosting some of the most prestigious races in the sport. Whether you are a seasoned racing enthusiast or a casual spectator, there is something for everyone to enjoy during this thrilling season.

Understanding the Prize Money

The National Hunt season is known for its thrilling races and exciting atmosphere, but it is also an opportunity for the horses and their connections to earn significant amounts of prize money. Understanding the prize money structure is essential for anyone looking to follow the season and bet on the races.

The prize money for National Hunt races varies depending on the type of race and the class of the horses competing. The higher the class of the race, the higher the prize money on offer. For example, Grade 1 races, such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup, have the highest prize money, while lower-class races, such as Class 5 races, have lower prize money.

In addition to the prize money, there are also bonuses available for horses that win multiple races or perform well in specific races. For example, the Betfair Chase at Haydock offers a bonus to any horse that wins the race and goes on to win the King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. These bonuses can significantly increase the amount of prize money on offer for successful horses.

It is also worth noting that the prize money for National Hunt races is split between the connections of the winning horse, including the owner, trainer, and jockey. The exact split varies depending on the race and the agreements made between the connections, but typically the owner receives the largest share of the prize money.

Overall, understanding the prize money structure is an essential part of following the National Hunt season. It can help bettors make informed decisions and allow fans to appreciate the financial rewards on offer for successful horses and their connections.

Membership and Participation

To participate in National Hunt racing, membership is required. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is responsible for the regulation of National Hunt racing in the UK, including the licensing of trainers, jockeys, and racecourses.

Membership is available to anyone who wishes to own, train, or ride a National Hunt horse. Membership benefits include access to racecourse facilities, horse training facilities, and the ability to enter horses into races.

There are different types of membership available, including owner, trainer, jockey, and stable staff membership. Each type of membership has its own requirements and benefits.

To become a member, an individual must complete an application form and pay the appropriate membership fee. The BHA reviews all applications and may conduct background checks to ensure that members meet the necessary requirements.

Once a member, individuals must adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the BHA. Failure to comply with these rules may result in disciplinary action, including the revocation of membership.

In conclusion, membership is required to participate in National Hunt racing, and the BHA is responsible for regulating the sport. Membership benefits include access to racecourse and horse training facilities, as well as the ability to enter horses into races. There are different types of membership available, and individuals must adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the BHA.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the National Hunt season begin?

The National Hunt season usually begins in July and runs until the end of April the following year. The Jump Jockeys Championship, which is used to define the start and end of the season, starts at the beginning of July and ends with Finals Day at Sandown Park towards the end of April.

Which racecourses host National Hunt races?

Many racecourses in the UK and Ireland host National Hunt races, including Cheltenham, Aintree, and Punchestown. The exact number of racecourses varies from year to year, as some may not host National Hunt races every season.

What is the National Hunt Jockeys Championship?

The National Hunt Jockeys Championship is a competition between jump jockeys to determine who is the most successful over the course of the National Hunt season. Points are awarded to jockeys based on their placings in National Hunt races, with the jockey who accumulates the most points being crowned the champion.

What is the difference between National Hunt and Flat racing?

National Hunt racing involves horses jumping over obstacles such as hurdles and fences, while Flat racing takes place on a level track without any obstacles. National Hunt races are typically longer and more challenging than Flat races, and require horses with different skill sets and physical attributes.


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