Jump Racing – The Ultimate Guide

A Jump Horse going over a fence with the jockey in a seated position

At Allsported we are passionate about jump racing and this is our ultimate guide to one of the most exhilarating sports of them all. There is nothing like watching a top class two mile chaser attacking and jumping fences bravely at speed and in our book, it is one of the most thrilling spectacles in sport.

In this ultimate guide to jump racing we’ll look at every aspect of the game, from breeding to betting and everything in between. Keep reading to learn more.

Hurdles vs Chases

The two main categories of jumps racing are hurdle races and chases. The former discipline requires horses to jump a smaller obstacle called a hurdle. These are a minimum of 3.5 feet in height and are made of panels of brush. The construction of the hurdles makes them more forgiving compared to the fences used for chasing.

The minimum height for fences used in chase races in the UK is 4 foot 6 inches. Usually, the fences are constructed of birch or spruce, or a mix of both. These obstacles provide a much sterner examination of a horse’s jumping ability and if a horse makes a mistake, they will usually either fall or else lose a lot of ground and momentum.

National Hunt Flat Races (Bumpers)

Not all national hunt races are run over jumps. Bumpers are races run over trips ranging from two miles to two and a half miles. These races are usually used to give young jump horses some racecourse experience.

They are useful for determining whether a horse has sufficient speed and stamina to compete in jump races and many bumper winners go on to have long and successful careers over hurdles and fences.

Point To Point Racing

Point to point races are essentially steeplechase races which are run over fences. Amateur jockeys usually ride in these races and in Ireland, many of the future stars of jump racing cut their teeth in this discipline.

Currently, horses that manage to win a point to point in Ireland, particularly on their debuts, sell for massive money to owners looking for the next big thing. For example, Jonbon won his sole point to point run at Dromahane and he was subsequently bought for a cool £570,000 by JP McManus.

National Hunt Race Distances

In jump racing, the minimum race distance is just under two miles. Over hurdles, the longest race is three miles one furlong, the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. Over fences, the farthest race is the Aintree Grand National, which is run over a distance of four miles, two and a half furlongs.

Breeding A Jumps Horse

The vast majority of top class jumps horses are out of broodmares that either had successful national hunt racing careers themselves, or broodmares that are related to high quality jumpers. A recent example of a brilliant racemare producing at stud is Annie Power, the dam of Grade 1 winner Mystical Power.

Generally speaking, jumps horses are usually sired by stallions who won over middle or long distances on the flat. Flemensfirth, for example, is one of the best national hunt sires of all time and he won two Group 1 races at ten furlongs.

I Am Maximus won the 2024 Grand National, the longest horse race in the UK and Ireland. He was sired by Authorized, a horse that won the Epsom Derby over a mile and a half.

How To Bet on Jump Racing

Want to back more jump racing winners? In this section, we’ll hopefully give you some vital tips on how to do exactly that. Just like we explained in our ultimate guide to flat racing, form studying and video replays are vital tools and there’s another few things you should consider if you want to learn how to bet on jump racing successfully.

Jumping Ability

First of all, can the horse you are thinking of backing jump? Some horses are absolute naturals and being able to jump economically can gain them lengths at every obstacle, especially over fences.

However, some horses, especially flat breds, struggle with their jumping techniques and these are horses to avoid when betting on jump racing. Use video replays to see how a horse jumped on previous starts before you have a bet.

Track Configuration

Track configuration is often overlooked, especially by bookmakers. When studying a horse’s form, consider how it has run around left handed tracks compared to right handed tracks. Some horses are fine going both ways around but many aren’t and this will be reflected in results throughout their careers.

If you can spot a horse that has good form going left handed but which has had a couple of runs going right handed (or vice versa), backing those horses when they return to their favoured track configuration can often prove to be pretty profitable.

Distance and Ground Conditions

As is also the case with flat horses, jumps horses have preferred ground conditions. Race distances are important too. If you can spot a horse that is finishing off well over two miles without getting to the front, back them when they go up to a longer trip. Clues can also be found in pedigrees regarding the optimum trip for a horse.

Horses For Courses

There is a reason the old saying ‘horses for courses’ has stood the test of time. In jumps racing (and on the flat) some horses seem to come alive when they run at certain racecourses. When a horse likes a particular track, trainers will often target them at the most valuable races possible at that venue. So, if you see a horse with that sort of profile, it is often worth having a flutter.

Key Jumps Meetings/Races

These days, the only jumps meeting that seems to matter to punters is the Cheltenham Festival. However, there are plenty of other big races and meetings that trainers can target throughout the year. The season starts in the Autumn and finishes up at the Bet365 Gold Cup meeting at the backend of April. We outline some of the key jumps races/meetings below.

King George VI Chase

Viewed by some as a trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but the King George is a prestigious race in its own right. Run at Kempton on Boxing Day, the trip is three miles and given the flat nature of the track, the emphasis is more on speed than stamina. Some of the sport’s biggest superstars have won this race, including the likes of Arkle, Desert Orchid, Wayward Lad, See More Business & Kauto Star.

Last 5 King George VI Chase Winners & Odds
2021Tornado Flyer28/1
2019Clan Des Obeaux11/2

Dublin Racing Festival

Held in February, this is a superb two day meeting. It is the last big Festival before Cheltenham and almost all of the big guns have their final tune up before the main event in March. There are eight Grade 1s run over the weekend including the Irish Gold Cup, Irish Champion Hurdle and Irish Arkle Novice Chase.

Last 5 Irish Gold Cup Winners & Odds
2024Galopin Des Champs1/3
2023Galopin Des Champs30/100
2020Delta Work5/2

Cheltenham Festival

The Olympic Games of national hunt racing. This is where legends are made and in recent years, Willie Mullins has dominated. He broke the record for total Cheltenham Festival winners trained in 2024 with 103 and he even managed to ride three winners there when he was a jockey.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the highlight of the week. The meeting starts on Tuesday and finishes up on the Friday. The key races during the week are the Champion Hurdle (Tuesday), Champion Chase (Wednesday), Stayers’ Hurdle (Thursday) and Friday is Gold Cup Day.

Cheltenham Festival Leading Jockeys
2024Paul Townend6
2023Paul Townend5
2022Paul Townend5
2021Rachael Blackmore6
2020Paul Townend5

Aintree Grand National

The Aintree Grand National is the biggest and most watched jumps race in the UK. The race has been modified in recent years for safety reasons and in 2024 the field size was reduced to 34 from 40.

This race is so famous that some of the fences even have their own names. The Chair, Becher’s Brook, Foinavon and the Canal Turn are amongst the best known obstacles in jumps racing.

The horses must navigate thirty obstacles over a trip of four miles and two furlongs and it has become more of a stamina test than a jumping test in recent years due to the changes made to the fences to make them safer.

The most successful Grand National horse of all time is Red Rum. He won it on three occasions, back to back in 1973 and 1974, before completing a hat-trick in 1977. Tiger Roll is another legendary winner and he won it in 2018 and 2019.

Last 5 Grand National Winners & Odds
2024I Am Maximus7/1
2023Corach Rambler8/1
2022Noble Yeats50/1
2021Minella Times11/1
2019Tiger Roll4/1

Top 5 National Hunt Trainers

At the moment, Willie Mullins is head and shoulders above the rest. He now holds the record for training the most Cheltenham Festival winners and he even managed to win the UK Trainer’s Championship in 2024. Others to note include Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Dan Skelton and Gordon Elliott.

Trainer2023/24 UK & Ireland Winners
Willie Mullins285
Gordon Elliott227
Paul Nicholls132
Dan Skelton120
Nicky Henderson91

Jump Racing – What makes a good horse?

In National Hunt racing, jumping is the name of the game and that is the key attribute. Obviously, speed and stamina are important too but a fast horse that stays isn’t going to win unless they can complete the course and get over the obstacles.

Over hurdles, it is best if a horse is low and slick when jumping the obstacles. A perfect example would be dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air when he was in his pomp. Horses that jump ‘big’ over hurdles usually lose a bit of momentum and those types are usually seen to best effect when sent chasing.

In chases, it is not ideal if a horse spends too long in the air when jumping fences. Ideally, a horse should be economical with their jumping because firstly, it helps to conserve energy and secondly, landing steeply can cause a horse to buckle on landing and unship their jockey.


When does the horse racing jump season start?

The horse racing jump season starts in Autumn and finishes at the end of April/start of May with the Sandown Bet365 Gold Cup meeting.

What is the biggest national hunt race?

The biggest National Hunt race for trainers and owners is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, in terms of popularity with the public, the Aintree Grand National is the most famous jumps race of all.

Are all jumps horses gelded?

Bar the very occasional exception, the vast majority of jumps horses are gelded. Only the crème de la crème of flat horses are not gelded at some point during their careers. There have been a couple of stallions that ran over jumps, the most famous probably being Midnight Legend (sire of Gold Cup winner Sizing John).