Which Racecourses Have Summer Jumps Racing?

Two Horses Racing in SunshineThe sport of horse racing is split into two branches, namely flat racing and National Hunt (jumps) racing. Flat racing is traditionally thought of as the summer arm of the sport, with the jumps action taking over in early winter and continuing into spring. In the 21st century, those seasonal distinctions remain broadly in evidence; the flagship flat races still take place during the warmer months of the year, whilst the standout jumps fixtures begin around November or December time and build to the crescendo of the spring meetings, headlined, of course, by the mighty Cheltenham Festival in March.

However, the modern racing calendar isn’t quite so cut and dried as in years gone by, with some form of both flat and jumps action taking place right throughout the year. The advent of all-weather tracks has ensured that flat racing can continue throughout the winter months, whilst over the jumps, the introduction of the summer jumps racing programme has helped to ensure that National Hunt aficionados are well catered for all year round. The latter is our focus here, but where can you find summer jumps action and why does it exist?

Why Have a Summer Jumps Season?

Horses Looking Out of Stables in Summer

In an era where many racing fans bemoan the overload of fixtures, some may question why we need these additional jumps meetings, with so much quantity and quality already on offer during the winter and spring. However, summer jumping does come with a number of key benefits:

  • Keeps the action going – The additional income generated by summer jumps racing is of major benefit to National Hunt-only yards and jumps-only racecourses, which would otherwise be faced with a long fallow period between April and October.
  • Caters to quick ground horses – Just as with flat horses, many jump horses prefer quick ground. Unfortunately for such runners, the core winter/spring jumps campaign generally takes place on slower ground, resulting in a scarcity of opportunities for them to display their best form. The summer jumps programme provides a series of races and decent prizes for such animals – assuming the great British weather cooperates.
  • Evening Fixtures – Given the lighter evenings of summer, many courses are able to stage evening jumps fixtures, which tend to attract significantly larger crowds than midweek afternoon meetings.

When is the Summer Jumps Season?

Chart with the British Jumps Racing Seasons

The core winter jumps season traditionally kicks off in early October and runs through to Finals Day at Sandown in late April. The summer jumps campaign then takes over, running from late April/early May to late September/early October.

In comparison with the winter jumps season, the summer jumps fixture list isn’t anything like so dense. However, the programme does provide a steady stream of National Hunt meetings peppered with a selection of valuable highlights.

Summer Jumps Racing Tracks

Newton Abbot Race

Credit: Barry Lewis, flickr

As we can see from the table below, those wishing to take in a little summer racing action of the National Hunt variety won’t find themselves short of opportunities, as 24 tracks combine to create a programme of just under 150 fixtures.

Course Location Fixtures Months
Aintree Merseyside 2 May – June
Bangor-On-Dee Clwyd 7 May – September
Cartmel Cumbria 9 May – August
Cheltenham Gloucestershire 1 May
Fakenham Norfolk 2 May – June
Ffos Las Dyfed 4 May – June
Fontwell Park West Sussex 7 May – September
Haydock Park Merseyside 1 May
Hexham Northumberland 7 May – September
Huntingdon Cambridgeshire 3 May
Kelso Roxburgh 4 May – September
Kempton Park Surrey 1 May
Ludlow Shropshire 2 May
Market Rasen Lincolnshire 10 May – September
Newcastle Tyne and Wear 1 May
Newton Abbot Devon 14 May  -September
Perth Perth and Kinross 12 May – September
Plumpton East Sussex 2 May – September
Sedgefield County Durham 2 August – September
Southwell Nottinghamshire 8 May – July
Stratford-On-Avon Warwickshire 11 May – September
Uttoxeter Staffordshire 13 May – September
Warwick Warwickshire 5 May – September
Worcester Worcestershire 18 May – September

The smaller tracks of Worcester, Newton Abbot, Uttoxeter, Stratford and Market Rasen lead the way in terms of numbers, with Cartmel also hosting a decent number. However, it is not just the smaller racecourses that offer summer jumping action. Indeed, some of the most famous National Hunt venues of them all are also in the mix, with Aintree, Kempton, and the home of jumps racing, Cheltenham, all laying on at least one meeting over the course of the summer months.

Biggest Summer Jumps Meetings

Close Up Top View of Gold Trophy

There are no world-class fixtures in terms of NH racing during the UK’s (supposedly) warmer months. That said, there are some that are certainly more prestigious than others.

Market Rasen: Summer Plate Day

Late July each year sees the biggest day of the year at the charming Lincolnshire course of Market Rasen. Held on a Saturday afternoon, this is one of only a few fixtures at the venue to attract the attention of the ITV cameras as the contenders line up for the valuable Summer Handicap Hurdle and the headline act of the Summer Plate Handicap Chase.

Offering excellent prize money for the time of year, these two events feature amongst the most targeted contests of the summer months, resulting in hugely competitive action. In addition to the high-quality entertainment on the track, this meeting doubles as Market Rasen’s official Ladies’ Day, guaranteeing a near-capacity, well-dressed crowd who are there to have fun.

Uttoxeter: Summer Cup Day

The Staffordshire track of Uttoxeter may be most famous for the Midlands Grand National, which takes place in March each year. But there is more to it than that marathon. The course is also a big player on the summer jumping scene. Ladies’ Night in late July and Family Fun Day in May are hugely popular with racegoers, but in terms of the quality of the racing action, it is this early July fixture which just about tops the bill. Headlined by the £75,000 Summer Cup Handicap Chase and with additional entertainment on offer for those in the stands, this Sunday afternoon fixture is always one of the most well-attended of the year.

Perth: April Festival

The Scottish track of Perth kicks off the summer jumps season in style with this three-day fixture in April (ok, technically spring but it is Scotland!) which regularly attracts runners from the top British and Irish yards. Held from Wednesday through to Friday, the meeting lays on a bumper 23 races, with the headline acts being the Listed class duo of the Gold Castle Novices Hurdle and Fair Maid of Perth Mares’ Chase, and the Highland National on the closing day. If you can’t make it to Perth in April, the track also lays on a similarly excellent multi-day meeting in the shape of the Glorious Finale fixture in September (and yes, we know that’s autumn!).

Cartmel: August Bank Holiday Meeting

If there is one track which has become synonymous with summer jumps racing, it is the beautiful Cumbrian course of Cartmel. Located in prime holidaymaking country on the edge of the Lake District, the track stages a total of nine fixtures per year – all of which take place between May and August. Summer jumps racing here is not a problem at all, with this being one of the wettest parts of the UK, so the going rarely gets too firm.

The opening May Meeting and Jumping July fixtures are well worth a look, but it is the season-ending August Bank Holiday fixture which really draws in the crowds. The track’s signature event of the Cartmel Cup lights up the opening Saturday, with the Cavendish Cup acting as the centrepiece of the Monday Card. Meanwhile, the intervening Sunday is a blank day on the racing front, enabling punters to take in the delights of the area, including trying the world-famous Cartmel sticky toffee pudding!

Stratford-on-Avon: Hunter Chase Finals

Usually amongst the lower-key events of the year, Hunter Chases are thrust into the spotlight in March and April courtesy of the major events at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals. It is, however, in Shakespeare country that the Hunter Chase season reaches its official climax, with this Friday evening fixture in late May or early June.

Given that punter-friendly time slot, Stratford’s biggest meeting of the year is always popular with punters. Crowds flock to the venue to take in the Champion Hunter Chase, Novices’ Hunter Chase Final, and Ladies Open Point-To-Point Championship Final.

Summer Jumping in Ireland

Irish Flag Against Cloudy Blue Sky

If the British National Hunt action isn’t enough to keep you occupied over the summer months, you need only look across the Irish Sea for a further influx of just under 90 jumping fixtures. Of the 26 racecourses located on the Emerald Isle, no fewer than 19 play host to at least one jumps fixture between the beginning of May and the start of October.

Course Location Fixtures Months
Ballinrobe Connacht 7 May – September
Bellewstown Leinster 2 July
Clonmel Munster 3 May – September
Cork Munster 3 May – August
Down Royal Ulster 3 May – September
Downpatrick Ulster 8 May – September
Galway Connacht 8 July – September
Gowran Park Leinster 2 September
Killarney Munster 6 May – August
Kilbeggan Leinster 8 May – September
Limerick Munster 3 May – July
Listowel Munster 6 June – September
Navan Leinster 1 September
Punchestown Leinster 3 May – June
Roscommon Connacht 4 June – September
Sligo Connacht 5 June – September
Tipperary Munster 3 May – July
Tramore Munster 5 June – August
Wexford Leinster 7 May – September

Highlights on the Irish Summer jumping scene include:

  • Mayo National – Ballinrobe, late May
  • Midlands National – Kilbeggan, July
  • Galway Festival – A huge mixed flat and jumps meeting spread over seven days in late July/early August.
  • Kerry National – Listowel, September
  • Gowran Champion Chase – Gowran Park, September