What is the difference between flat and jump racing?
The most obvious difference between Flat and Jump, or National Hunt, racing is that Flat racing does not require participants to negotiate obstacles, but National Hunt racing, at least for the most part, does. The one exception is the confusingly-named National Hunt Flat Race, colloquially known as a ‘bumper’, which is run under National Hunt Rules, but involves no obstacles at all.
Flat racing is also staged, on the whole, over shorter distances than National Hunt racing. In Britain, the official minimum distance for a Flat race is 5 furlongs, but the official minimum distance for hurdle races and steeplechases is 2 miles. At the other end of the scale, the longest Flat race staged in Britain is the Queen Alexandra Stakes, run over 2 miles, 5 furlongs and 143 yards, while the longest National Hunt race is the Grand National, run over 4 miles, 2 furlongs and 7 yards.
Nowadays, Flat and National Hunt races take place throughout the year, but the Flat season ‘proper’ traditionally starts with the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster in late March or early April and ends with the November Handicap at the same course in early November. By contrast, the National Hunt season ‘proper’ traditionally starts in mid-October and ends with the Bet365 Gold Cup, originally known as the Whitbread Gold Cup, at Sandown Park in late April. National Hunt racing is typically less financially rewarding than Flat racing and, with the most important part of the season extending through the winter, is generally considered less fashionable and less glamorous.