Jump races, or steeplechase races are a popular form of horse racing around the world. The highest concentration of jumping races are in Great Britain(3366), France(2194) and Ireland(1434), with the rest of the world hosting less then 20% of races. National Hunt racing is the oficial name of the sport in Great Britain and Ireland, after the 1860s formation of the National Hunt Committee.
The first recorded steeplechase was in 1752, run between the towns of Buttevant and Doneraile in south-west Ireland. The race was 4.5 miles and the start and finish lines where marked by the towns church steeples, thus creating the name “steeplechase”.
These “pounding races” as they where called where popular in Ireland in the 18th century. They started as two horse amateur races, and over the next hundred years evolved into larger events.
It took until 1839 for a “steeplechase” to appear on an official race card. It was at the official first running of the Grand National, where an Irish horse named “lottery” won the race. The sport started strong, but with no regulation was gaining a bad reputation.
In the 1860’s the National Hunt Committee was formed, and also the National Hunt Steeplechase was run. Initially the race was run annually, but hosted at different tracks each year. After decades of travalling in 1911 Cheltenham became the permanent home of the race. In the 1920 the race card was expanded to include more events such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle.
In 1957 corprate sponsership expanded the event to create the “Cheltenham Festival” as it is know today. Cheltenham has a famously boisterous crowd, creating a “Cheltenham roar” of noise and millions of pounds being gambled on Cheltenham betting. The 2012 schedule contains 28 races and starts 13th March 2012.
The largest prize today for any National Hunt horse race is in Britain, offering a total prize fund of £950,000 in 2011 is the Grand National. The National, as it is often called, is run at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England The race consists of two circuits of sixteen fences, with the last two fences being avoided in the second lap. It is the longest National Hunt race in Britain and the featured event at the three day meeting.
The National is run each year on a Saturday in early April, The next Grand National will be held on 14 April 2012. The actual year of the first Grand National is an issue of some debate, but 1836 is a likely year. It was the years of 1838 and 1839 when the railroad, and significant changes in the UK horse racing scene mushroomed the popularity of steeplechase racing.
Over 50% of all jump races in the world are run in the UK and Ireland. Races are run in one of three formats chase, hurdling or National Hunt Flat race. Chase races are 2-4.5 miles long and contain fences that are a minimum of 4½ feet high. Hhurdling races are 2-3.5 miles long and contain hurdles that are a minimum of 3½ feet high. National Hunt Flat race, or “bumper races” are 1.5 -2.5 miles long and are flat races with young inexperienced horses.
If you are looking for a great experience, you should check out a jump race. It is sure to be a good time for the whole family.
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