National Hunt racing, or ‘Jumps racing’, is traditionally a winter sport but National Hunt betting is now available most of the year round thanks to a successful summer jumping programme.
There are three categories within jumps racing under rules: Hurdles races, steeplechase races and bumpers, which are flat races for Jumps horses.
The biggest races in the Jumps calendar tend to be steeplechases like the Gold Cup at Cheltenham or the Grand National at Aintree but there are many top class-races over hurdles, too.
Cheltenham odds and Aintree odds tend to be available throughout the season, especially for the Grade 1 contests.
The Jumps season officially starts at the beginning of July and runs through to April, although the season ‘proper’ kicks in later in the year, with Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase which takes place in late October, generally considered to be the race that brings up the curtain on the Jumps campaign.
Cheltenham Racecourse is the focal point of much of the Jumps season and the Gloucester track gets the ball rolling with their hugely popular three-day November Meeting. Paddy Power Gold Cup betting is the focus on the Saturday afternoon while Greatwood Hurdle betting dominates Sunday’s card.
The first major staying steeplechase of the season takes place at Haydock Park Racecourse in mid to late November. Betfair Chase betting is hotly contested, indeed the Grade 1 contest has been won by jumping kings like Kauto Star and Cue Card in recent years.
The three-mile contest is the first leg of a triple crown of top chases that also includes the King George VI Chase and the Gold Cup.
The Ladbrokes Trophy, formerly known as the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, takes centre stage in late November/early December. The Newbury contest is one of the most competitive handicap chases run all season and is known locally as the Berkshire Gold Cup.
Ladbrokes Trophy betting often includes horses that go on to compete in top staying chases like the Gold Cup.
The Fighting Fifth Hurdle, which takes place at Newcastle Racecourse in December, is the first Grade 1 hurdle of the season and tends to be fought out by horses who feature prominently in ante-post Champion Hurdle betting lists.
All eyes fall on Sandown Park Racecourse in December, where the best speed chasers take each other on in the Tingle Creek Chase, one of only four Grade 1 chases over 2m1f or shorter through the jumps season in England.
Jumps racing plays a key role in entertaining the nation over the festive period and few races capture the betting public’s imagination in the way that the King George VI Chase does. The Boxing Day spectacular has been won by some of the sport’s most legendary names, including Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star.
Cheltenham Festival betting dominates the jumping landscape from the turn of the year and all roads lead to Prestbury Park for most of the biggest names in the sport.
Ante-post Cheltenham Festival odds lists are dominated by the best horses in training, whether that be at home or in Ireland.
Cheltenham’s four-day March festival is an extravaganza of betting with as much as £500m wagered on the festival races across the week.
The key championship races at Cheltenham are the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and Gold Cup. The Gold Cup, which always takes place on the final day, is undoubtedly the blue riband event of the entire week.
Once Cheltenham is over then attention turns to Aintree for the Grand National meeting in April. This three-day bonanza features an incredible 11 Grade 1 contests, many of which are contested by horses that fared well at Cheltenham.
The Grand National is the biggest single betting race in the year and millions tune in to terrestrial TV to cheer 40 runners jump 30 fences over four miles, two-half furlongs.
Grand National betting blows its rivals out of the water, with over £300m splashed out on the prestigious contest across the nation.