The Bumper, or National Hunt Flat Race to use its correct title, has long been recognised as an appropriate end to most National Hunt cards.
A congregation of equine potential being given an introductory taste of true racing surroundings, before they embark on a career over hurdles and fences. An ideal event for a young horse to enter the parade ring, canter to post with other horses, jump off and gallop for two miles; all without the apprehension of jumping obstacles. In essence they are educationally races, an informative tool for owners and trainers.
Though, as time has passed the evolution of racing media and an insatiable longing for more racing has led to Bumpers becoming a significant betting occurrence. The odd’s are certainly in the bookies favour.
In races where horses have little or no experience by definition, prices are offered, and wagers made, often with little or no knowledge of the horse in question. The element that these races are gambled on at all shows how much racing has become reliant on on the betting that shadows it; In a time when a computer-generated race is shown almost every 60 seconds in betting shops up and down the land, is there even a need for betting in Bumper races?
Contrasting the flat, there is no specific need for a horse to run in a bumper to accomplish a mark. Trainers can choose to go straight into the novice ranks if they feel that the horse is equipped. Bumper fields frequently consist of mixture of sales acquisitions, French imports, ex-pointers and home breeds, there to gain valuable experience under rules. Run mostly over the distance of two miles, they allow horses a first chance to run around a track whilst those watching can gauge their capability and form notions on how they will progress.
A win in a Bumper race, while seemingly not without some talent, is not an assurance of ability over obstacles. Many in these races simply require more time, experience and distance, while a winner can often be the horse best set for the race-track on the day. A fantastic instance of this is the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham festival. While top grade Bumpers represent the best, the top yards have on offer in these fields, a win in the last race on the Wednesday at the festival does not point to a career at the top level of National Hunt racing.
Bumper races are more about getting used to the milieu around you, learning how things work, what others do around you, how your awareness and body will react, rather than what you actually achieve on that first day. It is precisely the same for a racehorse. It can be more advantageous to watch a horse staying on stoutly into fourth place in a Bumper, than following one that has held on to win by half a length.
Now the horse racing betting sites are increasing the interest in Bumpers racing and the appetite for further racing is only going to continue to grow and prices are always going to be accessible on these education races. But perhaps next time you are studying a Bumper field in a race card, it is worth remembering that most of those horses are there to learn, not to win. Bigger assignments await them next time out.