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What is the National Hunt

In horse racing, there are two main types of competition in the UK and Europe. The first is flat racing where runners have to get from point A to point B across a flat surface in the quickest time possible. The second type of competition is called National Hunt racing.

Like flat racing, the runners and riders are aiming to cross the finishing line first. However, standing in their way along the track are barriers. Otherwise known as hurdles or jumps, these barriers add an element of skill, timing and uncertainty to the races. In turn, this makes National Hunt racing extremely entertaining to horse racing fans.

Types of National Hunt Racing

Within the world of National Hunt racing, there are three main types of races. Each one has its own entry requirements and, in turn, obstacles. Different types exist so that horses can gain experience with smaller obstacles and work their way up to more challenging races.

National Hunt Hurdles Race

BMB_Number_One In the UK and Ireland, hurdle races include at least eight hurdles/jumps. These jumps must be at least 3 ½ feet high, and the minimum distance raced over is two miles. Hurdle races are generally a warm-up before the horses can move on to steeplechase races. 

Chase Horse Race

BMB_Number_TwoOtherwise known in the horse racing betting terminology as steeplechases, these are distance races that combine jumps and ditches. In the UK and Ireland, the difference between the jumps in chases and “hurdle” races is the size of the obstacle.

In steeplechase events, the jumps/ditches are larger. Elsewhere in the world, steeplechase is a term used to describe any race with jumps. In general, steeplechases are run over longer distances than hurdle races.

National Flat Race (aka Bumpers)

BMB_Number_ThreeThese are flat races run under National Hunt rules. Basically, they’re seen as the testing ground for upcoming jumpers. The horses must be under seven-years-old and not have run in a full National Hunt jumps race or steeplechase. In short, National flat races (aka bumpers) are used to give horses experience and study their potential.

Difference Between National Hunt and Flat Racing

In the world of racing, National Hunt events are opposite to flat contests because the horses have to clear ditches and jumps. However, there are some additional traits that each type of race offers those involved and those watching:

⏩ The season typically takes place in the winter. Flat racing typically takes place in the summer.

⏩ Jump races are typically longer both in time and distance. Flat races are shorter and faster.

⏩ Top jumpers usually reach their peak later than flat runners and are more robust.  

⏩ Flat racing offers superior prize money, but National Hunt races tend to provide more drama.

National Hunt Grades and Classifications

As well as splitting races into categories, National Hunt racing experts also group horses. This is technically known as grading and is done to ensure horses of similar abilities, experience and ages compete against each other. Learning all the different ones is the first step towards avoiding a horse betting mistake.

On the other hand, grading horses also allows race organisers to create classes. These additional categories run from Class 1 to Class 6 and represent the level of experience/ability of the runners. In other words, Class 1 racers will be better than Class 2 runners and so on. Within each class, specific grades are allowed.

For example, in Class 1 events, all grades except handicap are permitted. Each class has its own rules. However, the grading system ultimately determines where and when a horse can run:

✔️ Grade 1: This system grades horses based on age and sex. The previous results of a horse don’t matter in Grade 1 National Hunt races.

✔️ Grade 2: Otherwise known as weight-for-age grading, this category looks at a horse’s weight, age and previous results. If the horse has won in the past, additional weight is added to even out the competition.

✔️ Grade 3: In this category, horses are graded by past results. This is known as handicapping. The runner’s handicap rating will determine how much weight is added.

✔️ Listed: These are races that are just below graded races. In essence, they’re novice races.

There are many other types of grades, including novice handicap, beginner chase and novice. The point to note here is that each will describe the level of ability the horses/jockeys have always compared to their peers.

Where Can I Bet on National Hunt Races

In today’s world, you can enjoy the season online courtesy of the leading bookmakers. From events such as the Supreme Novice Hurdle to the Grand National, all the top bookies have odds and offers throughout the National Hunt season.

Bet365 National Hunt Racing

BMB_Horse_HeadOne thing Bet365 does better than most is early odds and guaranteed best odds. When you bet on the biggest National Hunt races at Bet365, you can be confident you’ll be getting the best prices available. What’s more, thanks to offers such as enhanced wins, you can get more value when you make the right picks in top events.

Betfair National Hunt Racing

BMB_Horse_HeadThe entire National Hunt season is covered by Betfair. From the Supreme Novice Hurdle and Grand National to the Gold Cup and more, all domestic and international events are available for ante-post horse race betting. One of the defining features of Betfair is that you can use its exchange. Separate from the main sportsbook, the exchange allows you to back and lay a National Hunt race.

Unibet National Hunt Racing

BMB_Horse_HeadUnibet has international jumps coverage. As well as all events from the UK and Ireland, you’ll be able to speculate on races from Australia, South Africa, the US, France, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and Chile. Alongside standard wagers, you’ll be able to make “specials” such as winning distances, will XX trainer have a winner etc.

Coral National Hunt Racing

BMB_Horse_HeadCoral likes to go big on National Hunt races. As well as covering smaller events from tracks such as Lingfield, this operator offers market-leading odds on the Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and more.

One standout offer this bookmaker likes to run during major festivals is “fail to finish”. On select races, you can get your money back (up to a set amount) as a free bet if your pick fails to finish.

William Hill National Hunt Racing

BMB_Horse_HeadAs one of the UK’s oldest bookmakers, William Hill has a long association with hurdle racing. Throughout the National Hunt season, you’ll be able to bet on small meets as well as national spectacles such as King George VI Chase.

Beyond local events, you can bet on international races from Australia and the like as well as virtual contests. Finally, William Hill offers “your odds” and extra place payouts on major festivals such as Cheltenham.

Full List of National Hunt Betting Sites

Q: When does the National Hunt season start?

Although National Hunt events run all year round, the official season starts in October and finishes in April. It's worth to note that not all National Hunt races feature jumps. National Hunt flat races (bumpers) are used as a test for upcoming horses.

Q: What are the biggest National Hunt races?

The biggest National Hunt race is the Grand National. However, events such as Cheltenham feature a host of major races, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Beyond that races such as the King George VI Chase and the Supreme Novice Hurdle all rank highly on the annual calendar. 

Q: What happens with non-runners in National Hunt races?

If the race has been declared and your pick is a non-runner, you’ll receive your stake back. If your horse is part of an accumulator, this line is removed from the bet. If the race hasn’t been declared (an ante post bet), you lose your stake on non-runners.

Q: What is a National Hunt maiden race?

National Hunt maiden races are for horses that have never won at the top level. In simple terms, these are events for horses that are just breaking into the competitive scene.

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