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Flat racing v National Hunt

Frankie Dettori (left) and Tony McCoy
Dettori (l) says he has not got the bottle to race over jumps, while McCoy (r) is is too big for the Flat

By Russell Barder

Glamour, wealth, prestige and speed are attributes you would expect to find associated with Formula One rather than horse racing.

But they will all be on show at Epsom this weekend with the 229th running of the Derby - the premier Classic race of the British Flat season.

The sport has turned into a millionaires' playground with huge money coming from cash-rich nations like Dubai, whose biggest race, the Dubai World Cup, has a prize of $6m.

However, it's a different story for Flat racing's grittier, and some would say less glamorous, counterpart National Hunt.

Although its unpredictability makes for more exciting racing, its traditional winter season makes it a less attractive prospect.

If you are not a horse racing expert then you would be forgiven for thinking there is very little difference between the two forms of racing - apart from the fences.

But BBC Sport gets Frankie Dettori, Flat racing's most colourful character, and 13-time champion jump jockey Tony McCoy to talk through what makes the two versions of the sport so different, but also so unique.


Dettori: "I'm going to fight my corner and when we talk about Flat racing, we have the fastest race horses in the world.

"People are attracted to speed, like in Formula One or athletics - the fastest thing in the world is always the most attractive.

"Nevertheless, as a spectacle I guess jump racing provides more excitement and colourful racing, but in terms of quality and speed I think we have the better package."

Everybody starts out dreaming of winning the Derby and unfortunately for some reason or another some people get too tall and move into jump racing

Frankie Dettori
McCoy: "For the everyday person they would probably find it easier to relate to jump racing, but Flat racing is very glamorous and obviously has a lot of very wealthy people involved.

"Financially it's a lot more difficult to get involved and become successful in Flat racing, especially as an owner.

"As a jump owner you could be lucky enough to have a horse that cost you 20,000 or 30,000 and it could win you a Grand National or a big race like that.

"Realistically that doesn't happen in Flat racing so from that point of view you have a better chance of getting lucky with a jumper."


McCoy: "I often say to people that if you want to go and watch an exciting race then go and watch a jump race.

"I've been in that position, where I've been down there myself watching, and I've thought to myself that the lads who are doing that are mad. But once you're doing it on a horse you get the buzz and the excitement of it.

"It's an exciting and unpredictable sport and like everything, it has its ups and downs."

Dettori: "I am a big fan of races like the King George at Kempton and the big Cheltenham and Aintree meetings.

"Nothing comes as good as a jump race meeting in the spring and even if you don't know too much about the everyday stuff, I am glued to the TV like a million other people.

"I think it's very exciting and fascinating and something I never miss.


McCoy: "You can get a very bad fall on the Flat but it probably doesn't happen very often. It can be a little less dangerous and you probably don't end up in the ambulance as much as we do.

"I've broken my ankle, my leg, my arm, my wrists, upper and lower vertebraes, shoulder blades, collar bones, cheek bones, teeth, fingers and a thumb."

Mick Fitzgerald
Mick Fitzgerald suffered a nasty fall at this year's Grand National
"Dettori: "I tried jump racing when I raced for charity in a race at Chester and I have never been so frightened in all my life.

"I take my hats off to the guys that do it because I definitely don't have the bottle to do it.

"It looks very exciting on the telly, but it is one thing watching it on TV and then doing it for real. When you see those obstacles in front of you, they're pretty big.

"It's great when you watch the Grand National, but it puts it all into perspective when you see someone like Mick Fitzgerald who nearly lost his whole body in the race.

"So I won't be rushing to do it."


Dettori: "I think the biggest draw for jockeys to go into Flat racing is that it is less dangerous. But somewhere along the line everybody wants to be a Flat jockey.

"Luckily enough for me I managed to stay a short arse and stayed in my sport.

"Everybody starts out dreaming of winning the Derby and unfortunately for some reason or another some people get too tall and move into jump racing."

McCoy: "I couldn't agree more. When I started I was with Jim Bolger for four-and-a-half years and, because I was small, I hoped then that I could be a Flat jockey.

"But I broke my leg when I was 18 or 19 and got too heavy and obviously came out jumping.

"However, if you're lucky enough to be small enough then it's probably easier and a lot less dangerous if you like.

"Also, you would never see a jump jockey racing on the Flat because of the weight.

"The lightest weight I can achieve is 10st 4lbs, while Frankie is probably 8st 7lbs-8st 8lbs so that would restrict me as far as Flat racing goes."

see also
Derby deserves respect
04 Jun 08 |  Horse Racing
Bolger dismisses Derby criticism
02 Jun 08 |  Horse Racing
Cornelius Lysaght column
03 Jun 08 |  Horse Racing
Conquest unlikely to make Derby
11 May 08 |  Horse Racing
Cumani pleased with Curtain Call
21 May 08 |  Horse Racing
Fremantle set to have Derby run
23 May 08 |  Horse Racing
Epsom Derby meeting schedule
22 May 08 |  Horse Racing
Horse racing on the BBC
19 May 08 |  Horse Racing
National rollercoaster
03 Apr 08 |  Horse Racing
Guide to Flat racing
03 May 03 |  Horse Racing
Quiz the racing team
17 Dec 04 |  Horse Racing

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