What does a novice hurdle in horse racing mean?

Novice hurdle races are one of the best formats for burgeoning horses to break onto the scene

Novice hurdle guide at Paddy Power


The National Hunt season boasts some of the most intense horse racing action on the planet.

But even the best horses that run at Cheltenham and the Grand National have to start from somewhere.

And you can watch the latest up-and-coming names that could become legendary champions by following novice hurdle races when horse racing betting throughout the season.

So what is a novice hurdle and why are they important? Paddy Power is here to help with the latest in our Demystifying Racing series…

What is a novice hurdle?

A novice hurdle is a race run at a National Hunt meeting that features hurdle obstacles that horses must jump over.

But before we get to the novice bit, we need to understand the difference between hurdles and fences seen at National Hunt meets. While fences are sturdy obstacles reaching at least 4ft 6in, hurdles are smaller (3ft 6in) and more flexible.

Novices' Hurdle at Fontwell Park

Horses run at the Novices’ Hurdle at Fontwell Park (GETTY)

The novice part of a novice hurdle relates to the experience level of the competing horses.

No horse can run in a novice hurdle once they have won a National Hunt race in the previous season (although novices can run until the next October if they win a race within the last few months of the previous season).

It means the majority of novice hurdlers are young, inexperienced horses that have the potential to become stars. Or they are horses that are making the transition from the Flat (no jumps) season to National Hunt (jumps) races.

A novice race run over fences is called a novice chase.

Wetherby Races Novices' Hurdle

Wetherby Races stages the Novices’ Hurdle every year (GETTY)

Why are novice hurdles important?

Novice hurdles offer some of the best introductory avenues for burgeoning National Hunt horses to run fast and compete for big wins.

That’s because the races are only open to horses yet to win a National Hunt race in the previous horse racing season.

Some of the most iconic horses in racing claimed novice hurdles wins on their path to greatness.

Best novice hurdles to bet on

Cheltenham’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is a Grade 1 race that has produced iconic winners down the years. The likes of Douvan, Vautour, Go Native and L’Escargot all claimed this prestigious prize.

Cheltenham Festival also boasts the Grade 1 Spa Novices’ Hurdle and Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle.

Aintree, meanwhile, stages the Top Novices’ Hurdle with a prize fund of £125,000.

Racing betting on these iconic races will give you the best insight into how novices can hurdle their way to superstardom.

Many horses return to Cheltenham having starred in novice hurdles events to take greater prizes in years to come.



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