National Hunt racing

National Hunt racing requires horses to jump obstacles.

National Hunt racing in the UK is informally known as “jumps” and is divided into two major distinct types; hurdles and steeplechase.

Alongside these there are “bumpers”, which are National Hunt Flat races.

In a hurdles race, the horses jump over obstacles called hurdles; in a steeplechase the horses jump over a variety of obstacles that include plain fences, water jumps and open ditches.

In the UK the biggest National Hunt events of the year are generally considered to be the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The National Hunt season runs year-round, but the best quality races tend to take place over the winter months.

National Hunt racing originated in Ireland. Early races were mainly two-horse contests known as “pounding races” that became popular in the early 18th Century. These involved long trips across country where horses were required to jump whatever obstacles they encountered along the way.

The first recorded race of this nature is traditionally said to have taken place between the towns of Buttevant and Doneraile in the north of County Cork in 1752. The distance of the race was 4.5 miles (7.2 km). The start and finish were marked by the church steeple in each town, hence the term “steeplechase”.

The first use of the term steeplechase on an official racecard was in Ireland in the early 19th Century.