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hurdle race

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A hurdle race is a type of horse racing contest in the National Hunt code, where racehorses jump brush panels stuck into the ground as obstacles. Clearing them and finishing first past the post is the goal of all competing horses and their jockeys. The hurdle race meaning is as simple as that, but we’re going to look at the different sort of race types in this sphere, plus the biggest hurdling events.

Different Types Of Hurdle Race Explained

hurdle race

If you look really closely on horse racing betting sites and elsewhere, then you’ll find there are seven different types of hurdles contests in the sport. All races over hurdles will fall into one or other of these categories:

  • Maiden hurdle
  • Novice hurdle
  • Handicap hurdle
  • Conditions hurdle
  • Juvenile hurdle
  • Claiming hurdle
  • Selling hurdle

What is a Maiden Hurdle Race?

A maiden hurdle is a horse race where all the runners have never won previously over hurdles. They may have enjoyed prior success in a National Hunt Flat race, colloquially called a bumper; in a Point-to-Point or on the Flat. Each are different spheres or codes of the sport. Maiden hurdle race conditions only specify that the competing horses haven’t had a previous victory under Rules when hurdling. These events are often a starting point to see how the runners take to jumping obstacles after schooling on the gallops.

What Is A Novice Hurdle Race?

A novice hurdle is another common type of race traditionally contested by horses inexperienced at the discipline. Previous winners over hurdles within the same season can take part, but must carry a penalty. The amount of extra weight is specified in the race conditions. Runners that have won on the Flat, a steeple chase, Point-to-Point or bumper horse race before aren’t penalised. There are contests that are both novice races and elite races at the same time with graded status.

What is a Handicap Hurdle?

As horse racing handicaps form the majority of standard races held every day, there are plenty of these over hurdles. The top rated runner with the official assessor carries the heaviest weight. Those of other horses in these types of races have allotted weights based on the difference in their rating between the topweight and their own mark.

List Of Notable Handicap Hurdle Races In The UK And Ireland

Here is a list of major handicap races over hurdles in the British Isles:

Key Handicap Hurdle Races Course Open to Distance When
Swinton Handicap Hurdle Haydock 4yo+ 1m 7f 144y May
Galway Hurdle Galway 4yo+ 2m 11y July / August
Lartigue Hurdle Listowel 4yo 2m September
Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle Chepstow 4yo+ 2m 3f 100y October
Welsh Champion Hurdle Ffos Las 3yo+ 1m 7f 182y October
Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle Naas 4yo+ 2m 3f 200y November
Greatwood Hurdle Cheltenham 4yo+ 1m 87y November
Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle Haydock 4yo+ 3m 58y November
Gerry Feilden Hurdle Newbury 4yo+ 2m 69y November / December
December Handicap Hurdle Sandown 3yo+ 1m 7f 216y December
Tara Hurdle Navan 4yo+ 2m 4f December
Betfair Exchange Trophy Ascot 4yo+ 1m 7f 152y December
Lanzarote Hurdle Kempton 4yo+ 2m 5f January
Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle Ascot 4yo+ 2m 3f 58y January
Liffey Handicap Hurdle Leopardstown 4yo+ 2m January / February
Heroes Handicap Hurdle Sandown 4yo+ 2m 7f 98y January / February
Betfair Hurdle Newbury 4yo+ 2m 69y February
Morebattle Hurdle Kelso 4yo+ 2m 51y February / March
EBF Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final Sandown 4yo-7yo 2m 3f 173y March
Imperial Cup Sandown 4yo+ 1m 7f 216y March
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Cheltenham 4yo 2m 87y March
Coral Cup Cheltenham 4yo+ 2m 5f March
Pertemps Final Cheltenham 5yo+ 2m 7f 213y March
County Hurdle Cheltenham 4yo+ 2m 179y March
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Cheltenham 4yo+ 2m 4f 56y March
Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Series Final Newbury 4yo+ fillies & mares 2m 4f 118y March
William Hill Handicap Hurdle Aintree 4yo+ 2m 4f April
Village Hotels Handicap Hurdle Aintree 4yo+ 3m 149y April
Scottish Champion Hurdle Ayr 4yo+ 2m April

What Is A Conditions Hurdle?

Conditions races are the other kind of hurdles events where eligibility and penalties are all laid out in the terms of entry. If it is a contest for fillies and mares only, for example, then no male horses can take part. All the elite races with Grade 1 status over hurdles are conditions contests. More on those below.

What Is A Juvenile Hurdle?

A certain sort of race that restricts the runners by age are called juvenile hurdles. These are for horses aged three during the first part of the core National Hunt season (from October to December) who then turn four on 1 January. That convention of determining the age of a racehorse only applies in the Northern Hemisphere. Juvenile jumping races exist so there is a route for horses coming off the Flat to gain experience of hurdles.

List Of Key Juvenile Hurdle Races

Key Juvenile Hurdle Races Course Status Distance When
Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle Wetherby Listed 2m October / November
Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle Cheltenham Grade 2 2m 87y November
Coral Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle Newbury Listed 2m 69y November / December
Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle Fairyhouse Grade 3 2m November / December
BoyleSports Juvenile Hurdle (Registered as the Summit) Aintree Listed 2m 209y December
Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle Cheltenham Class 2 2m 179y December
Knight Frank / South Dublin Juvenile Hurdle Leopardstown Grade 2 2m Boxing Day
Finale Juvenile Hurdle Chepstow Grade 2 2m 11y December
Chatteris Fen Juvenile Hurdle Huntingdon Class 2 1m 7f 168y January
Finesse Juvenile Hurdle Cheltenham Grade 2 2m 179y January
Spring Juvenile Hurdle Leopardstown Grade 1 2m January / February
Scottish Triumph Hurdle Musselburgh Listed 1m 7f 124y February
Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle Haydock Class 2 1m 7f 144y February
Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle Naas Grade 3 2m February
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Registered as the Fred Winter) Cheltenham Premier Handicap 2m 87y March
JCB Triumph Hurdle Cheltenham Grade 1 2m 179y March
Percy Maynard Juvenile Hurdle Fairyhouse Grade 2 2m Easter Monday
Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle Aintree Grade 1 2m 209y April
Fillies’ Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Cheltenham Premier Handicap 2m 179y April
Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle Punchestown Grade 1 2m April / May

What Is A Claiming Hurdle?

There is a sort of race where the horses entered can be claimed if a set value in money is bid for them when auctioned on the racecourse. This is called a claiming hurdle and the fee offered must meet a set minimum amount by the trainer when making the entry.

What Is A Selling Hurdle?

Similar to a claimer, a selling hurdle is a race for horses that their owners wish to sell on to new connections. They may stay with the same trainer after the race or end up going home with a new handler. There is more about claimers and sellers on the BHA website, which explains more specifics.

Grade 1 Hurdle Races In The UK & Ireland

All events, whether they are a hurdles race, steeple chase, bumper or Flat race events have classifications. The highest bracket of these are Class 1 contests. These are also known as black type horse races and split into Listed and graded events in the National Hunt code. The very best of these jumping races are Grade 1s. These are worth the most prize money and have the greatest prestige.

List Of British & Irish Grade 1 Hurdle Races

Grade 1 Hurdle Races Course Open to Distance When
Morgiana Hurdle* Punchestown 4yo+ 2m 100y November
Fighting Fifth Hurdle Newcastle 4yo+ 2m 46y November / December
Royal Bond Novice Hurdle* Fairyhouse 4yo+ 2m November / December
Hatton’s Grace Hurdle Fairyhouse 4yo+ 2m 4f 70y November / December
Long Walk Hurdle Ascot 4yo+ 3m 97y December
Formby Novices’ Hurdle Aintree 4yo+ 2m 103y Boxing Day
Christmas Hurdle Kempton 4yo+ 2m Boxing Day
Future Champions Novice Hurdle Leopardstown 4yo+ 2m 27 December
Jack De Bromhead Christmas Hurdle Leopardstown 4yo+ 2m 7f 80y 28 December
Matheson Hurdle Leopardstown 4yo+ 2m 29 December
Challow Novices’ Hurdle Newbury 4yo+ 2m 4f 118y December
Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle Naas 5yo+ 2m 4f January
Golden Cygnet Novice Hurdle Leopardstown 5yo+ 2m 6f 27y February
Spring Juvenile Hurdle Leopardstown 4yo 2m February
Irish Champion Hurdle Leopardstown 4yo+ 2m February
Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle Leopardstown 5yo+ 2m February
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Cheltenham 4yo+ 2m 87y March
Champion Hurdle Cheltenham 4yo+ 2m 87y March
David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle Cheltenham 4yo+ fillies & mares 2m 3f 200y March
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Cheltenham 4yo+ 2m 5f March
Stayers’ Hurdle Cheltenham 4yo+ 2m 7f 213y March
JCB Triumph Hurdle Cheltenham 4yo 2m 179y March
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Cheltenham 5yo+ 2m 7f 213y March
Honeysuckle Mares Novice Hurdle Fairyhouse 4yo+ fillies & mares 2m 4f 100y Easter Sunday
Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle Aintree 4yo 2m 209y April
Aintree Hurdle Aintree 4yo+ 2m 4f April
Top Novices’ Hurdle Aintree 4yo+ 2m 103y April
Sefton Novices’ Hurdle Aintree 4yo+ 3m 149y April
Mersey Novices’ Hurdle Aintree 4yo+ 2m 4f April
Liverpool Hurdle Aintree 4yo+ 3m 149y April
KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle Punchestown 5yo+ 2m 100y April / May
War Of Attrition Novice Hurdle Punchestown 4yo+ 2m 7f 180y April / May
Champion Stayers Hurdle Punchestown 4yo+ 2m 7f 180y April / May
Punchestown Champion Hurdle Punchestown 4yo+ 2m April / May
Tickell Novice Hurdle Punchestown 4yo+ 2m 3f 80y April / May
Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle Punchestown 4yo 2m April / May
Mares Champion Hurdle Punchestown 4yo+ fillies & mares 2m 3f 30y April / May
 *May be downgraded to Grade 2 races by HRI in the 2024-25 season.

Key Hurdles Events At The Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is where the champions over jumps are crowned every National Hunt season season in March. Away from the Gold Cup and other illustrious steeple chase events, there are seven Grade 1 hurdle races during the meeting, which are worth examining in more detail.

The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race

Opening the Cheltenham Festival every year is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Run over a distance of about two miles on the Old Course with eight hurdles on the way round, it was originally called the Gloucestershire Hurdle and split into more than one Division. Famous winners of the Supreme include Flyingbolt, L’Escargot, Bula, Golden Cygnet, Brave Inca, Douvan and Altior.

The Unibet Champion Hurdle Race

Champion Hurdle race

As the most valuable race of its kind, the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham brings elite horses in this discipline together. First run in 1927, this two-mile contest has a storied history of multiple winners, plenty of National Hunt greats triumphed here. The late 1970s and early 1980s were a real golden era for the Champion Hurdle. Five horses have won the race three times in Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq.

The David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle Race

Switched to the Old course just a year after its inaugural running in 2008, the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle became a Grade 1 contest in 2015. Run over 10 hurdles and a distance of about two-and-a-half miles, it is only open to female horses. Six-time winning heroine Quevega, who put the race on the map, and dual scorer Honeysuckle are the equine names most synonymous with this event.

The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Race

Officially registered as the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle, the Ballymore is the best known sponsored title of the opening race on Ladies Day at the Cheltenham Festival. Contested over two miles and five furlongs on the Old Course, it was first held in 1971 when called the Aldsworth Hurdle. Other previous sponsors of the event include Royal & Sun Alliance and Neptune Investment Management. Famous winners of this include Danoli, Istabraq, Hardy Eustace and Faugheen.

The Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle Race

Staying hurdlers aren’t always the most glamorous bunch, but they are catered for during the penultimate day of the Cheltenham Festival. A three-mile contest, simply called the Stayers’ Hurdle takes place on the New course. This race has something of a chequered history, but had its profile helped by a number of multiple winners since the turn of the century. They include Baracouda, Inglis Drever and Big Buck’s. There are a dozen flights of hurdles on the way round.

The JCB Triumph Hurdle Race

Restricted to four-year-olds only, the Triumph Hurdle is the opening race on Cheltenham Gold Cup day. Run on the New course over eight flights and an extended two miles, it is a launchpad for future stars of National Hunt horse racing. Transferred to Cheltenham in 1965 after the closure of Hurst Park, notable winners include Persian War, Kribensis, Commanche Court, Katchit and Tiger Roll.

The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Race

And finally, the race before the Gold Cup itself on the last day of the Cheltenham Festival is the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over three miles and 12 flights. Registered as the Spa Novices’ Hurdle and introduced in 2005, this event tests the stamina of inexperienced horses. The Albert Bartlett has produced two subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winners in Bobs Worth and Minella Indo.

Hurdle Race Rules

There are certain rules that horse racing hurdles events must adhere to, so that they are standardised in both the UK and Ireland. These not only govern how many obstacles horses jump on their way around the course, but whether any can be omitted and what constitutes running on the track. The following rules cover the basics:

  • All horses must pass between the white plastic wings of all hurdles.
  • Failure to do so means any horse will be deemed to have run out and off the course.
  • In a hurdle race of about two miles, there must be eight flights to jump. For three-mile races, there are 12.
  • If there is low sun beforehand or injury to a horse during the races, hurdles may be omitted.

Best Bookies For Betting On Hurdle Races

There are plenty of chances to place bets in horse racing over hurdles. What bookmakers do is concentrate on the most valuable ones by offering prices in advance, then offer markets on standard races overnight or on the day. Things to look out for are extra places on the handicap type of races when there are lots of runners.

Although newcomers to the British betting scene, BetMGM is a great option for punters wanting to bet on horse racing hurdles. This is because they have begun sponsoring major races in this sphere. These include hurdle races, so they clearly want to raise their profile.

Conclusion

All that remains now that you’ve seen what our number one among recommended betting sties for wagering on hurdles is to take a punt yourself. As different types of races go, these are exciting with the best hurdlers developing an ability to flick quickly over the obstacles.

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Jamie Clark
Jamie Clark
Jamie Clark

Jamie Clark has been with www.bettingsites.co.uk from the very beginning and penned the very first pieces of content that appeared right here. Known for his horse racing expertise, his strong gambling knowledge comes from childhood where he was surrounded by both horses and betting. The godson of a former on-track bookmaker at Market Rasen Racecourse, Jamie ended up working in the same industry and became Sports Editor of heavyweight bookies Coral for three years before they merged with Ladbrokes. After a successful spell freelancing for other big names in the business, he helped us launch this site with his skills, experience and ability coming in useful. Read long form content across a range of betting subjects from Jamie right here.

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