If you’re new to horse racing betting then one thing to know that will make you look far more experienced amongst your friends is the difference between Flat racing and National Hunt. These are two different seasons in the UK and Irish horse racing calendar, with Flat being run in the summer months and National Hunt over the winter and spring.
It’s the National Hunt that features jumps such as hurdles and fences, which is why races like the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup are National Hunt events.
But there are a select few National Hunt races that don’t include jumps. In our latest Demystifying Racing guide, Paddy Power explains why some flat races take place during the National Hunt.
A National Hunt race without fences
The two main types of National Hunt race are chases (also known as steeplechases) and hurdles. The first sees horses leap over racing fences, the second over smaller hurdles. And a third, less common type of National Hunt race is called a bumper.
Now, a bumper horse race is effectively a flat run that is designed to introduce horses to the environment of race day. Many young horses that are ready to step up to the Flat season will take part in bumpers towards the end of the National Hunt season, to become accustomed with the race environment running in front of grandstands.
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Crucially it means the horses can gain experience without the added distraction of fences or hurdles to bypass, and be ready once the Flat season gets underway.
Bumpers are a great source of racing betting entertainment as they can feature some of the best up-and-coming Flat horses in the business.
Best bumper races
There is only one Grade 1 bumper race in the National Hunt horse racing season – the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham. However, there are plenty of other notable bumper runs that take place during the season, including the Winter Bumper at Newbury and Aintree’s Champion Standard.
The 2023 Champion Bumper takes place at Cheltenham Festival at 5:30pm on Wednesday 15 March. The previous year Facile Vega won the race under Patrick Mullins.
Betting on bumper races
Racing betting punters tend to see bumpers as a more predictable market compared to chases or hurdles. That’s because there is very little risk of a horse falling when running in a bumper, and so the odds are more realistic to the abilities of each horse.
Quite often Flat jockeys will take up a Jump Jockey’s licence in order to run in bumpers. This is good news for punters as the jockeys are likely to be more experienced in the art of flat racing.
You’ll likely spot if a National Hunt race is running without fences or hurdles because it will be usually branded a ‘bumper’. Bumpers are often the final race of the day at National Hunt events.
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