The end of the summer months signal only one thing for avid National Hunt fans — the much-anticipated return of jump racing. Here are just a few reasons to look forward to a winter of action over the fences...
1. The £1m triple crown
Kauto Star remains the only horse to have won this trio of races in one season — the Betfair Chase at Haydock, the King George at Kempton and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. This season, Paul Nicholls has an exciting duo earmarked for the big three in last year’s King George victor Clan Des Obeaux and Frodon, who won the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
2. Ditching the summer dress
As much as we all love to dress up and look the part, there is a sense of relief coming into the jump season that we no longer need to carefully plan an outfit with such precision (which hat goes with which dress, not forgetting the colour-coordinated handbag). It is the time of year, when we can pull on the tights, whack out the faux fur or tweed and no longer have to panic over perfectly shaven, tanned pins. With fascinators boxed up for the winter, hats also become a godsend for any unruly locks.
3. Adrenaline-fuelled action
Watching our favourite jump horses battle it out on the track, is the reason many of us love to go racing — the thrill of seeing it all up close and the smell of horses with freshly painted hooves walking around the paddock is enough to get our hearts pounding.
4. Layering up
For any National Hunt racegoer, there is nothing more enjoyable than wrapping up against the cold for a day at the races and treating yourself to a mulled wine. Get the layers on, don a woolly hat and don’t forget your gloves.
5. Saturdays sorted
If going to the races is not on the cards, an afternoon spent tucked up on the sofa, in front of a fire, with a cup of tea and ITV Racing on the television is something that will resonate with any jump racing fan over the winter months. Friends already know not to ask if you are free on a Saturday afternoon (you have a date with National Hunt racing, sorry not sorry).
6. Horses back from holidays
As we head into the colder months, National Hunt trainers’ social media is full of videos of their jump stars back in work following their well-deserved holidays, which always get the butterflies buzzing with excitement.
7. Yard visits
At this time of year, many jump trainers also hold open days at their yards. A chance for like-minded people to get close to the equine stars of the sport, hear about their plans for the season and just generally be a bit nosey.
8. Future stars of the weighing room
Over the summer, a handful of jockeys graduate from the point-to-point field and take out conditional jockey licences. It is always interesting to see them grow and progress in the professional ranks. Former amateur rider Ben Jones is one to keep an eye on this season.
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9. Family fun
If you are a parent to young children, do not panic — you can still enjoy jump racing with many racecourse now offering family fun days, including pony rides, fun fairs, face painting, farm animals and much more. Think of it as an alternative to childcare and something you can all enjoy together. Some tracks, such as Newbury Racecourse, also run racedays creches. Newbury offers up to two hours free childcare for kids under eight in the Rocking Horse Nursery next to the racecourse.
Don’t miss our National Hunt special in the 31 October issue of Horse & Hound. For all the latest equestrian news and reports, check out our magazine — on sale every Thursday.