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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 November 2002, 22:28 GMT
Guide to National Hunt
By Sophie Brown
BBC Sport

National Hunt is the official name for jump racing.

Although jumps meetings are held year-round, the season proper lasts from mid-October to the end of April.

The first big race in the UK is the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby at the end of October with the Attheraces Gold Cup (Sandown) providing a fitting finale in April.

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Jump races can be broadly divided into steeplechases and hurdle races.

In steeplechases, which are run over distances from 2-4 miles, horses have to jump fixed fences, which are at least 4ft high.

Hurdle races, run over distances from 2-3m, involve smaller, less rigid obstacles, at least 3ft high, which often collapse when hit by a jumping horse.

National Hunt has a much less glamorous reputation than Flat racing.

The prize money on offer is considerably less and because the most important part of the season stretches across the winter months, warm rather than fashionable outfits are the order of the day for spectators.

But many would argue its relatively small financial rewards and lack of airs and graces make it more of a true sport.

And few can deny that watching a horse in full flight over an obstacle is a breathtaking spectacle.

The National Hunt season also boasts some of the world's most famous and exciting races, including the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Jump racing is arguably the most life-encompassing sport there is: it involves man, beast, nature and money - and is a sport of both life and death.



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