National Hunt or Flat Racing - two very different forms of racing. To the regular uninterested outsider of horse racing, the sport is the same regardless. There are many differences between the two, but which is better?
Jumps racing commences at the beginning of October, through the wet and winter months and reaches its climax at Sandown at the end of April. From then on, the official flat calendar begins with the first classic of the season - 2000 Guineas, through the warm summer and concludes at Champions Day in October.
They both test different parts of a horse’s racing calibre. Flat stars are usually faster and shorter, rewarding sprinters and middle-distancers, while National Hunt’s many jumps and longer distances make it suited to horses that excel at endurance and stamina. Inevitably, the runners have different characteristics in National Hunt and flat races.
Flat-track specialists come with larger fore-quarters which make them quicker over shorter distances than the jumps, however it comes at a cost as they are significantly less robust and most of them will reach the heights of their abilities between the ages of three and four. The most successful horses are then sent to the stud house to create the next generations superstars.
Meanwhile, National Hunt horses are more sturdy and prosperous, racing for longer, and usually reach peak between the ages of seven and ten.
This is a great unique selling point for jumps racing as horses therefore run for a longer period of time resulting in punters being able to build a connection with individual horses.
The longevity of National Hunt also allows for competitions to build and narratives to develop. For example, Cue Card was very much the people's horse, as every year he turned out in fine throttle, and won so many high profile races on the build-up towards the festival.
He was so unfortunate to fall twice at the same fence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and on another day it might of proved different, but every year he came back fighting and wanting more.
We have also seen many rivalries develop - few better than the matchup between stablemates Kauto Star and Denman scrapping it out for festival feature over many years. More recently, everyone is calling on the clash between two of the best over fences - Altior and a fully fit Douvan.
For many, National Hunt racing is associated with a cold Guinness or shivering with a cup of tea in the wet winter months, while flat racing incorporates the best that the Great British weather has to offer – making it more attractable to the average person.
While flat racing has the money and the glamour, the true racing fan would prefer to battle the cold, the grit and focus on the close relationship they have with horses they know are coming back every season.
Flat racing is centralised through pedigree and breeding, and bonds can rarely be maintained as the horses are very lightly raced. It is harder for punters on the flats as well as there as so many maiden or novice events where all the horses hardly have any miles on the clock and it is purely guesswork.
For jumps racing, we already know that Might Bite and Native River - injury free, will battle it out for the Gold Cup in March, with the possible inclusion of a couple of others. Flat racing on-the-other-hand is all about the unknown.
Both styles of racing on there day have there own merits but overall we believe and look forward to more the Jumps season, but what do you think?