The National Hunt season in horse racing runs from the start of July through to the end of April. The major races predominantly take place in the UK and Ireland, however, there are big international contests in France and the USA. Here is a look at the biggest races and what it is that makes them so prolific.
The Champion Hurdle is one of the Championship races at the Cheltenham Festival, usually held in March. It is the feature race on day one of the meetings and there is no bigger prize over hurdles than this race, so each year it attracts a very strong field.
The premier hurdles contest takes place over two miles, and the runners jump a total of eight obstacles. The roll of honor for this event comprises Hatton’s Grace, Persian War, and Istabraq, horses who are considered some of the best hurdlers of all time.
In 2021, the race was won by unbeaten mare Honeysuckle. Presently, she is the odds-on favorite in the Champion Hurdle betting outright markets to defend her crown in 2022. Henry De Bromhead’s mare will join an elite club of horses who have been successful in back-to-back years if she can repeat what she did last season.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Blue Riband event of the Cheltenham Festival, and indeed the National Hunt season, is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In 2021, £468,750 of prize money was available in the race, which Minella Indo won.
This contest takes place over three miles and two furlongs. It is a strong stamina test, especially with the uphill finish at Cheltenham Racecourse. The winner of this race is generally considered as the leading three-mile chaser in the UK and Ireland.
Arkle, Desert Orchid, and Kauto Star are all remembered today at various major racecourses for their achievements on the course. All three prevailed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with their legacy on the track cemented with victory in this race.
Held at Aintree in April, the Grand National is one of the highlights of the British sports calendar. This race is regarded as the world’s most famous steeplechase, with millions tuning in to watch this contest every year.
The Grand National is a handicap contest that includes 40 runners. It takes place over the longest distance in the sport at four miles, two and a half furlongs. The other unique aspect of the race is that the fences are bigger than a standard obstacle.
This steeplechase will always be associated with Red Rum. The chaser holds the record for the most victories in the race. He was victorious in 1973, 1974, and 1977, while he was also second in the contest in 1975 and 1976. When he passed away in 1995, he was buried at the winning line at Aintree.
With £1 million in prize money in the race now, it is the most lucrative jumps event in the world. Minella Times was successful in 2021 and he is expected to return to the contest in 2022 as the defending champion.
All three of the above races continue to be big highlights for racing fans. It is going to be fascinating to see who can add their names to the latest renewals of each contest.