An Introduction to Jumps Racing
Jumps Racing, also referred to as steeplechasing, is an ancient sport with its roots in foxhunting along the English countryside.
Popularly referred to as the National Hunt in the UK and Ireland, this is considered to be the second most popular form of horse racing for bettors across the world. You’ll find jumps racing in the UK, Ireland, France, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Eastern Europe and the United States.
While jumps racing is popular in many of the world’s largest countries, Great Britain, France and Ireland offer the most developed jumps racing yards and racecourses. It’s UK’s Cheltenham Festival at the Cheltenham Racecourse which holds the de facto world championships of jumps racing each year in mid-March.
In addition to the Cheltenham, there are a number of extremely popular jumps racing festivals, where you’ll generally find jumpers of all ages and stages at each of these events.
Types of Jumps Racing
Jumps races are nearly always longer than flat races and you will struggle to find a National Hunt race that is shorter than 2m (unless you are betting on a “bumper”).
You’ll find races going all the way up to 4.5m, if you include point-to-point racing, and these marathon sessions are generally reserved for younger horses in Ireland and older horses in the UK.
There are a few variations on jumps racing and the two biggest are chases and hurdles. A hurdles race involves a contest going between 2-3.5 miles over hurdles at least 3.5 feet high.
A chase is a more traditional race going anywhere from 2-4.5m over larger obstacles than a hurdles race; with the obstacles being at least 4.5 feet high.
A “bumper” is also called a National Hunt Flat Race, and these are more popular in Ireland than anywhere else. It’s a shorter race with no obstacles to jump over and you’ll generally find bumpers running at 1.5-2.5m.
Betting on Jumps Racing
Betting on jumps racing is a whole different beast than betting on flat racing. Despite many of the bets and information being similar to flat racing, betting on jumps definitely requires a different wagering skill-set.
From a betting perspective, one of the biggest things most punters examine first is a horse’s ability to win races over certain types of ground conditions, referred to as the “going”.
It’s a well-known fact that certain horses win races on certain types of ground, and having to jump over a dozen or so hurdles can complicate things if your horse doesn’t perform with the conditions under-foot.
As a general rule, always note what type of ground is under the race you plan to bet on, and find a horse that’s won over that type of ground before.
Since Jumps racing has many more variables than flat racing, you have to do a bit more research on individual selections. Most jumps races have more contenders in them than flat races, ensuring quality prices are usually on offer: it’s relatively rare to see anything but an all-star priced at anything below even-money.
Like all types of horse racing, jumps races pit similar types of horses against each other. A novice horse is generally between 4-7 years old and he will be running against other contenders at the same level.
Age isn’t as big a deal as it is in flat racing as different jumps contenders ease into the sport at different periods in their lives. Some popular jumps horses have switched over from flat racing while the odd horse will run in both flat and jumps races well into his career. You’ll find jumps horses racing as old as around 13.
How to Choose your Horse
When trying to pick a horse to back, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this contender boast a relevant course or distance victory?
- Can he handle the going?
- Is he error-prone?
- Does he finish races?
- Has he demonstrated the ability to recover from any mistakes?
- Does he prefer to race up front or come on strong at the end?
- Has he won at this level before?
- Is he primarily a chaser or a hurdler; is this race in his comfort zone?
- How is his recent record?
- Is this contender pointed at a major race in the near future?
- Who’s the trainer and is he/she accomplished at this level?
Once you can answer all of those questions positively, you’re well on the way to making a strong selection for the race. But only after you ask the same questions about your horse’s competition can you begin to get a full understanding of how the race should play out.
If your horse likes to run in the lead, but so does a couple of his top competitors, you have to decide if this is going to help, or hinder your selections chances.
As you can see, betting on jumps racing is as intricate and in-depth as you make it. While the majority of the general public place their bets purely based on the horse’s name, being successful requires actively researching the selections before considering what bets to make.
If you think you have a decent understanding on how to choose your horse, head to our How to Bet on Horse Racing guide for a list of all the most common bets to make on a race, or even our Beginner’s Guide to Tote Betting to learn about some of the more interesting, and lucrative, betting opportunities.