National Hunt | Horse Racing

National Hunt is a significant horse racing sport in the UK, Ireland and France. In the UK, there are two main branches in this sport - Steeplechases and Hurdles. There are also flat races that are referred to as bumpers.

It is at its peak during winter. It is an ideal time for this sport because the soft ground during winter is safer for jumping. Horses used in this sport are less expensive castrated horses.

The two most important meetings on this racing calendar - Cheltenham Festival and Grand National - attract huge television attention wordwide and gets hundreds of millions (in UK pounds) of gambling money. In addition, there are other significant festivals such as Galway Races, Punchestown Festival, Tingle Creek, Scottish Grand National, Welsh National, and Irish National.

National Hunt started in the southern part of Ireland in the 18th century. Early contests, known as pounding races, involved two horses that ran across country. Pounding races covered long trips where horses must jump any obstacles they see along the way.

At present, because of the sport's early days, horses bred and trained in Ireland remain dominant in events. However, French-bred and trained horses are getting more popular in recent times, as well.

As mentioned above, there are three types of racing: Chase, Hurdling and National Hunt Flat Race. In Chase, fences are larger and higher, at least 4.5 feet in height. Race is between 2 to 4.5 miles . In Hurdling, jumps over hurdles instead of fences are lower, with at least 3.5 feet in height. Race courses are between 2 to 3.5 miles. NH Flat Race or bumper race is for inexperienced horses, and does not require jumping. The course is between 1.5 to 2.5 miles.

NH race is graded. At the top in jump racing is Grade 1, followed by Grade 2, then Grade 3, Listed, then Handicaps, and lastly, Bumpers. More prestigious races accumulate higher prize money as well as better-trained horses. For flat racing, grades from highest to lowest are Group 1, Group 2, Group3 and Listed. NH races are also categorized from class 1 (best) to class 7.