Those watching horse racing casually will have noted that the basic split is Flat racing in the warmer months, jump racing in the winter. That is broadly true, but these days there are many more crossovers.
National Hunt racing has always been seen as more of a winter vocation. The softer, slower ground is seen as being better and safer for jumpers, while the quick summer ground suits the speedier Flat types. We do need a crossover in the main seasons, however.
Why Do the Seasons Merge?
Flat runners now benefit from very fine all-weather tracks, meaning if they miss an intended target, often a debut, in the turf season they can still run in November, December or even later.
Some National Hunt horses are very competent jumpers, but would not have the speed for the Flat and love fast ground which they cannot get in winter, meaning summer jumps meetings remains important.
Another reason can be the topography or surroundings of a racecourse.
If a track is near a river and prone to flooding, or has poor drainage and is likely to have meetings called off in winter, they may stage summer meetings to cover for this.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s about the punters.
True, the Derby, Royal Ascot, the King George, Glorious Goodwood and the Ebor hold sway in the warmer months, but some people are simply out and out jumps fans and should not be denied a simple pleasure.
The same of course can be said the other way round.
What Racecourses Stage Summer Jumps Meetings?
With varying levels of success, attendance and quality, a whole host of Britain’s racecourses offer summer jumping action.
These are the British tracks offering National Hunt meetings during June, July and August as of 2023:
- Aintree, Liverpool.
- Cartmel, Cumbria.
- Fakenham, Norfolk.
- Ffos Las, Kidwelly, South Wales.
- Fontwell, West Sussex.
- Hexham, Northumberland.
- Market Rasen, Lincolnshire.
- Newton Abbot, Devon.
- Perth, central Scotland.
- Southwell, Nottinghamshire.
- Stratford, Warwickshire.
- Uttoxeter, Staffordshire.
- Worcester, Worcestershire.
As well as these, some Irish tracks also host summer jump racing.
The Galway Festival, run at the same time as Glorious Goodwood in England on the Flat, is the most famous example.
The Top Summer Jumps Fixtures
These are arguably the pick of the summer jumps meetings in Britain and Ireland.
Perth keeps very busy during the summer. Though there are still Gold Cup Day, Family Day, Stone of Destiny Day, the Glorious Finale and others to come, the Perth Festival in late April is the highlight.
Racing takes place over three days featuring top prize money and lots of entertainment including live music and more.
Hunter Chase Finals Evening at Stratford
We get to see a number of high-profile hunter chase races at major meetings in the spring, notably at Cheltenham, Aintree and then Punchestown.
The traditional hunter chase evening then comes to a fine finale at Stratford at a Friday evening meeting at the end of May or the beginning of June.
Summer Cup Day at Uttoxeter
Uttoxeter has the distinction of handing out the biggest prize money for jumpers during the summer months with their Summer Cup. The Summer Cup is run in late June or early July on a Sunday afternoon. Many top National Hunt trainers send top quality horses to the race.
This meeting has become known as a great family affair. Those under 18 can access the course at Uttoxeter for free, with many of the horses on show going on to run well during the traditional jumps season from October onwards.
Summer Plate Day at Market Rasen
Both the Summer Plate and the Summer Hurdle take place on this day, the top racing day for Lincolnshire which is beamed live on terrestrial TV late in July.
The prize money is excellent, the crowds are large and the quality is excellent for summer jumping. The two main races on the card in fact, run at Listed level, are major betting events which compete well on the day with all the Flat action shown round the country.
The Galway Festival
While Glorious Goodwood is taking centre stage on the Flat in England in late July or early August from Tuesday to Saturday, the Galway Festival in Ireland is run during the same week.
More than 150,000 people attend the festival in Galway, the biggest crowds being drawn on Wednesday which is Ladies’ Day. The Galway Hurdle and the Galway Plate are particularly valuable and in fact are among the most popular jumps racing in Ireland of the entire year.
August Bank Holiday at Cartmel
Cartmel in the Lake District is so unique. A great summer jumping venue, Cartmel has traditionally put on fixtures during public holidays and is adept at drawing big crowds.
The August Bank Holiday meeting is a real highlight, featuring the Cartmel Cup. That is run on Saturday, before there is a day off and punters can return on Bank Holiday Monday to see the Cavendish Cup among other things.