I have been a strong follower of jumps races for a long time, over 25 years in fact, but the last few years I have been following flat racing more closely as well. Now this is all good I hear you say but where is this going ?

 Let me explain in more detail. –

I have noticed that some horses make the transition from racing on the flat to racing over hurdles and fences. Through the generations we have saw the likes of – Red Rum winning flat races before going over obstacles to land the Grand National. To Our Conor who again won on the flat before going over hurdles and becoming a stayer. 

More recently we had Landofhopeandglory winning races on the flat before winning over hurdles and fences and only 4yrs old.

Interesting stuff but not every horse can make the transition and I will explain why. Firstly if a trainer has paid a decent price for a flat horse, most won’t risk running over hurdles as they want to protect their investment from any potential injury or loss, the pros and cons have to be weighed up to see if the risk is worth taking.

Secondly I understand race horses are expensive thoroughbred’s not only to purchase but also to train. There is also the general upkeep, which can cost a fair amount even for the deepest pocket. Then you have to take into account if horse will be bred on so stud fees etc play a big part.

Lastly at what age should these horses be tried over obstacles.

There doesn’t seem to be a rule that says what age a horse should be before making the transition from flat to jumps , but from a personal perspective I’d say 4yrs old should be the cut off point for training over obstacles, as horses who have been racing for 5years or more tend to be more troublesome as they will have picked up a lot of bad habits by then. 

I have also noticed that gelded horse’s seem to take better to hurdles for first time up until 4 yrs old. Now this could be down to the horse being more settled as a result of gelding or being more open to training on as its still young enough to retrain.

In relation to this if a horse has won or placed in a 2m 6f  – 3m flat race in my opinion should in theory be able to hold it’s own over hurdles at 1m 4f – 2m as horse will be using the same amount of energy and if taking the obstacles into account will cover less ground.

How do we spot these types of horse? Well that comes down to 3 things .

1- Either waiting to see what trainers send their flat horses to sales and are then purchased by a jumps yard.

2-Or by good old fashioned watching back replays of races looking for strong finishers and horses who win by a few length in every race. It may take hours upon hours of frustration before finding one that ticks all the boxes, but will be worth it when you find what you’re looking for.

3- Or finding a couple of sires who produce winners over both the flat and hurdles/fences. The two most prolific and probably the most widely known are :

1-Montjeu– There is no doubting his talent as a Flat sire, highlighted by his four Derby winners Authorized, Camelot, Motivator and Pour Moi.

However, like so many leading middle-distance Flat sires, he has supplied his fair share of jumpers, and some pretty darn good ones at that , headed by the record-breaking 22-time Grade 1-winning hurdler Hurricane Fly, as well as talented pair Noble Prince and Won In The Dark.

His progeny have a 56% strike rate on the Flat and 53% for jumps.

2-Sadlers Wells– The father of Montjeu and Galileo who are exceptional sires in their own right. In 1990, his daughter Salsabil won the 1000 Guineas, Epsom Oaks and Irish Derby, which helped steer Sadler’s Wells to his first champion Sire’s title ,and it was no fluke as he would repeat that 14 times in total including 13 on the trot. Sadlers Wells also sired some jumps horses with the most notable being Istabraq.

Sadlers Wells progeny have a 63% strike rate on the Flat and 57% for jumps.

I know some may disagree with my reasoning and some may say yeah you could have something there. In that case it’s job done as I will have got you talking about it and that’s not a bad thing in my book.

Written by Charlie Mcgreevy 

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