What Is A Bumper Race? 

 May 22, 2023

By  Philip Borrowman

In this post, I will give you a full description of a Bumper Race and what this type of horse race entails.

Exactly What Is A Bumper Race?

A bumper race, also known as a National Hunt Flat race, is a type of horse race in the United Kingdom and Ireland that is designed to introduce horses to jump racing.

Bumper races are run under jump racing rules but do not include any hurdles or fences for the horses to jump over, hence they are "flat" races.

The purpose of these races is to allow young horses (typically between the ages of four and six) to gain experience on a racecourse before they start their careers in hurdle or steeplechase racing.

These races are usually run over a distance of about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers), or 12 to 20 furlongs, although the exact length can vary from course to course.

They're typically held at the end of a day's racing, which is how they got the term "bumper" - they 'bump' or conclude the day's events.

Although they serve primarily as educational events for the horses, bumper races can be betting events in their own right, and many top-class jumpers have started their careers in bumpers, such as Monsignor, who had an impressive win in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 1999, and later proved his prowess in hurdle and steeplechase races, including winning the Sefton Novices' Hurdle and the RSA Chase.

How many bumper races can a horse run in?

A horse can compete in a bumper race up to four times, but it's worth noting that once a horse wins a bumper race, the options for further bumper races can become limited.

Once a horse wins a bumper race, they move on to hurdle or steeplechase races to begin their jumping career.

Also, trainers often use bumper races sparingly, as these races are seen primarily as a way to gain experience and prepare horses for the rigours of jump racing.

Therefore, it's common for a horse to only run in a handful of bumpers before moving on to hurdles or chases.

In addition, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and other similar bodies may have rules limiting the number of bumper races a horse can enter or providing conditions for further entries after a win.

It's always best to check the specific rules of the relevant jurisdiction.

How long is a bumper race?

Bumper races range in distance from about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) to 2.5 miles (4 kilometers), or 12 to 20 furlongs.

The exact length can vary from course to course and depending on the specific race conditions.

What is the difference between bumper and hurdles?

Bumper races have no jumps involved. Hence they're "flat" races.

The goal is to prepare these younger horses for more demanding racing styles.

On the other hand, hurdle races are the next progression in a horse's racing career.

Unlike bumper races, hurdle races involve jumping over obstacles.

These hurdles are constructed of brushwood and stand a minimum of 3.5 feet tall.

A Simple Lay Bet Strategy For Bumper Races

This strategy can be particularly interesting in bumper races due to the inexperience of the horses involved. Here's a general approach you could consider:

Strategy: Betting Against the Favorite

Step 1 - Research: Start by thoroughly researching the horses participating in the race. Look at their training reports, any previous races, and the reputation of their trainers and jockeys.

Step 2 - Identify the Favorite: Bookmakers and betting exchanges often have a clear favourite for the race. Given the unpredictable nature of bumper races and the inexperience of the horses, the favourite doesn't always win.

Step 3 - Keep an Eye on Conditions: Factors like changes in the weather, track conditions, or last-minute changes to the race line-up can all influence the outcome of a race. Stay informed and be ready to adjust your betting strategy as needed.

Step 4 - Place a Lay Bet Against the Favorite: If, after your research, you believe that the favourite horse may not perform as expected, you can place a lay bet against this horse. This means that if any horse other than the favourite wins, you will win your bet.

Five Fun Facts About Bumper Races

  1. Origins: The name "Bumper" originally stems from the tradition of these races being scheduled as the last event of the day's racing card. Hence, they 'bump' or conclude the day's proceedings.
  2. Famous Beginnings: Many renowned National Hunt horses began their careers with bumper races. Notably, the legendary racehorse Istabraq, a three-time winner of the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, started his career with a bumper race.
  3. Cheltenham Festival: The most prestigious bumper race is arguably the Champion Bumper, held annually during the Cheltenham Festival. The race, established in 1992, is the most high-profile bumper race in the National Hunt calendar.
  4. Women in Racing: The first race in Britain in which female jockeys were allowed to compete against men was a bumper race, held at Kempton Park in 1972. This marked a significant step in promoting gender equality in the sport.
  5. A Race for the Future: Famous racehorse Cue Card, winner of numerous Grade 1 races, including the King George VI Chase and the Betfair Chase, made his debut in a bumper race, winning the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 2010. This underlines how bumper races can be a stepping stone for future champions.

Philip Borrowman


I am a full-time marketer and part-time Betfair trader. I have over 10 years of experience in the pre-race and in-play horse trading markets and spend my days writing guides, tips and tricks to help beginner Betfair traders find their way to a profitable second income. Read my story of trading on Betfair.

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