When you hear about a ‘bumper’ race, this is a race which is essentially run under a slang name.
The real name for this type of event is a National Hunt Flat Race. Essentially, this is a flat race which is run under the rules of jumps racing. In other words; such races are run on jumps racing cards but no obstacles of any type are taken by the runners.
Much like juvenile hurdle races, bumpers are usually contested over the jumps minimum distance of two miles. Though that trip is known as “the minimum”, in actual fact these days you may find such races run over just 1¾ miles.
Why Do We Have Bumpers?
Bumper races were designed to give opportunities to the later-maturing horses which were bred for jumping.
A horse with experience on the Flat would not need to take part in a bumper.
Jumps-bred horses may run in bumpers to gain experience before they go over hurdles and, sometimes, over fences later on.
Which Horses Can Take Part?
Bumpers are restricted races. They are open only to horses who have not raced previously in any other type of horse race except for other bumpers or point-to-point races. They are also open only to horses aged seven or younger in Britain.
Occasionally, there are ‘Bumpers for Jumpers’ cards in which experienced jumps horses do take part in a full card of bumper races, but this is rare.
Given their nature, bumpers are generally seen as being at a lower level than other jumps races as the horses haven’t proven themselves yet. They are often scheduled to be the last race of the day.
Some bumpers are run at a high level however. The true reason they are run at the end of the day is so that hurdles can be removed so that the race can take place, without them having to be put back in place for another hurdle race.
Though run like a Flat race, jumps rules are used so that means a tape start rather than the horses going into starting stalls.
Why Are National Hunt Flat Races Known as Bumpers?
We’re left with theories rather than certainties when it comes to why we know National Hunt Flat races as ‘bumpers’.
One such thought is that, once upon a time, only amateur riders and conditional jockeys were allowed to ride in these events.
Because of their lack of experience, it was perceived that the jockeys and horses were always bumping into each other on the way around. It’s a lovely thought, but we may never know for sure.
Nowadays, some bumpers throughout the season are seen as important races in their own right.
Each of the major festivals has a bumper race, with inexperienced but promising horses aimed at the event throughout the season.
Biggest Bumper Races on the Calendar
These are the top bumper races contested annually in Britain and Ireland:
|Future Stars Irish National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2)||2m||Run during the Dublin Racing Festival in February.||A Dream To Share|
|Irish EBF Mares’ Irish National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2)||2m||Also run at the DRF at Leopardstown.||Fun Fun Fun|
|Champion Bumper (Grade 1)||2m ½f||Run in March during the Cheltenham Festival. This is the highest-profile bumper around.||Dunguib, Cue Card, Champagne Fever, Envoi Allen, Sir Gerhard, Facile Vega|
|Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2)||2m1f||Run during the Grand National Festival at Aintree in April.||The Glancing Queen|
|Champion Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2)||2m1f||Also run during the Grand National meeting.||The New One, Lalor.|
|Champion Irish National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 1)||2m||Run during the Punchestown Festival in late April or early May.||Like-A-Butterfly, Champagne Fever, Kilcruit, Facile Vega.|
|EBF Mares’ Bumper (Grade 3)||2m||Run at the Punchestown Festival for 4-7yo||Colreevy|
|Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed)||2m ½f||Run at Cheltenham in November, a good trial for the Champion Bumper.||The Glancing Queen.|
|Championship Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed)||2m||Run in December at Ascot.||Shutthefrontdoor, Knappers Hill.|