Steeplechase and Hunt Horse Racing

Hunt Racing and Steeplechase are very similar forms of horse racing mostly held in the UK, Ireland and the US. Join us as we take a look at both steeplechase and National Hunt Racing.

Steeplechase racing began during the 18th century in Ireland. It was a cross-country horse race run between two church steeples and was thus named steeplechase. It is said that the first ever steeplechase was run in 1752 due to a wager between Edmund Blake and Cornelius O’Callagan. This first chase was a distance of 4 miles starting at Buttevant Church and ending at St. Leger Church. Originally the steeplechase was basically a contested cross-country race. The first steeplechase to occur on a proper track with fences is said to have taken place in 1810 at Bedlam, England. Today steeplechase involves a distance horse race which features ditch and fence obstacles. The best-known steeplechase is the English Grand National which began in 1837.

National Hunt Racing is held chiefly in Ireland and the United Kingdom and is also known as another name for steeplechase. During this exciting race the horses encounter a number of obstacles referred to as fences or hurdles. The National Hunt season is mostly in winter when the ground is ideal for jumping. This form of racing is very popular for several reasons including the fact that horses are less expensive and can be retired at a later age. Interestingly, National Hunt racing or jump racing is more popular in Ireland than thoroughbred flat racing. Actually, National Hunt racing began in Ireland’s southern regions from what was known as “pounding races” during the 18th century. In this sport horses and their riders would race across wild areas, tackling all obstacles in their path. Topping the National Hunt Calendar is the well-attended Cheltenham Festival, held annually in March. Brilliant horses gather to this prestigious event and the crowds are enormous. Plenty of money is wagered during the four days which see many victories. Hunt racing fans can also enjoy the sport at the Punchestown Festival, Tingle Creek, Scottish National and Aintree’s Grand National. Horses which take part in National Hunt racing are often previously flat race horses whilst others have been specifically bred for their jumping skills. Several of the most oustanding hunt racing horses began with point-to-point racing.

National Hunt Horse Racing has 3 categories. Chase racing takes in distances between 2 and 4 ½ miles with fences of 4 ½ feet or more. Hurdling covers 2 to 3 ½ miles with hurdles with a minimum height of 3 ½ feet. National Hunt Flat races are also called ‘bumper’ races and are for horses that are just starting out. Hunt Racing or Steeplechasing is a really exciting sport, both for participants and spectators. Why not check out the National Steeplechase Association Website to find out when the next race is going to be held in your region.

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