National Hunt, Chase or Hurdles? Can You Profit From Both?

For horse racing lovers, the thrill of National Hunt racing acts as some form of compensation for the shorter and colder days of autumn and winter. NH races feature older and larger horses than its Flat counterpart, and from September to April, these events are the main focus of the racing calendar as the Flat season takes a backseat.

The most important NH race types are Flat (also known as Bumpers), Chase and Hurdles. In this piece, I will focus on Chase and Hurdles to see if one form of NH racing is more profitable from a betting perspective.

National Hunt Hurdles

NH Hurdles races involve jumping over timber obstacles at least 3 feet 6 inches high. They are divided into Juvenile, Novice and Open categories and take place on distances ranging from 2m to 3m 4f. Successful Hurdles horses can efficiently take the jumps in quick succession without losing speed.

Weight is mainly an issue on heavy or soft ground, and you should focus on ‘stayers’ over the longer distances. A horse capable of staying a 3m 4f race is worth a second look and may prove value when compared to ‘classier’ horses unproven at the distance.

There is a school of thought which suggests that backing favourites in non-handicap hurdles and chases races is more profitable than focusing on favourites in handicap races. Let’s check it out in Hurdles events since the beginning of 2013:

Race Type Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
Handicap 6311 1801 28.54% -2.68%
Non-Handicap 6172 2961 47.97% -1.55%

The difference in strike rate is astounding! While almost half of non-handicap favourites win, less than 30% achieve victory in handicap races. No surprise then to find that the ROI loss is much better in non-handicap events at just 1.55%. It is important to note that the ROI loss in Handicap races is also fairly low which means more large priced favourites do the business.

What’s interesting about non-handicap favourites is that you’re better off focusing on Class 1 races. In these high-quality affairs, over 47% of favourites win, and your ROI since 2013 would be almost 9%. Moreover, you would have earned a profit of at least 6% every year since 2014.

As you’re no doubt aware, certain NH courses are more profitable for favourites in non-handicap events. Warwick is one of these tracks in Hurdles races; here are the stats since 2013:

Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
102 58 56.86% 20.29%

Hurdles Jockey to Watch

When it comes to Hurdles, check out Nico de Boinville. His 2017 record is relatively poor and would leave you with a loss of over 7%, but his record since 2013 is extremely good:

Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
642 126 19.63% 69.2%

His record in non-handicap Hurdles races is truly exceptional and includes an ROI of 65% in 2017 so far:

Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
254 69 27.17% 134%

The overall ROI is inflated by a 100/1 win in 2013, but it still makes particularly good reading in 2016 and 2017.

National Hunt Chase

NH Chase (also known as Steeplechase) races take place over fences, open ditches and water jumps that are at least 4 feet 6 inches high. The distance ranges from 2m to 4m 4f. Chase races are far more demanding than their Hurdle equivalent, and poor jumpers have little chance of victory.

As well as focusing on stayers, you also need to look at horses with preference over the Going. A ‘mudder’ usually outlasts ‘better’ horses over a long, gruelling Chase race on soft ground for example.

Let’s take a look at the performance of favourites in non-handicap vs. handicap races in Chase races since 2013:

Race Type Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
Handicap 5590 1626 29.09% -6.38%
Non-Handicap 2781 1308 47.03% -2.3%

Once again, non-handicap favourites perform much better with a win rate of 47% and an ROI loss of a little over 2%. Focusing on races with 1-12 runners brings the loss to just 0.18% from just over 2,500 bets.

Unlike Hurdles races, it is Class 3 events that offer the best value in Chase races since 2013:

Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
282 166 58.87% 9.37%

In terms of track, Warwick also performs nicely for non-handicap favourites in Chase events since 2013; albeit with relatively few races:

Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
50 30 60% 15.63%

You just need to find a few such courses to build a long-term winning system.

Chase Jockeys to Watch

Paddy Brennan is definitely a jockey who prefers Chase races to Hurdles. While he would lose you money on all Hurdles races since 2013, his Chase stats are as follows:

Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
960 152 18.33% 19.93%

Best of all, the ‘worst’ profit you would make in the last four years was in 2014 when your ROI would have been 9.71%.

What’s interesting is that Brennan does even better on non-favourites since 2013:

Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
745 108 14.5% 26.86%

Once again, the last four calendar years have been profitable including a 91% profit in 2016 and 59% so far in 2017.

Harry Cobden is becoming a bit of a favourite due to his propensity to ride decent priced winners. Once again, he loves Chases and absolutely kills it from a betting perspective. He has only had a significant presence in these events since late 2015 but so here are his stats so far:

Bets  Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
208 39 18.75% 74.27%

It is clear that he rides some big priced winners in chases and although his strike rate for 2017 is below 14%, your ROI is still over 58% on Betfair. Therefore, Cobden is very much a jockey to watch in Chase events.

Final Thoughts

As you would expect, there is value to be had in both Hurdles and Chase races; it’s just a question of finding the right data to create a winning system. It makes more sense to look at non-handicap favourites in both NH types because they win nearly 50% of their races whereas handicap favourites win fewer than 30%.

When you’re looking to bet on favourites in non-handicap NH races, make sure you ‘get on’ early in the morning because the masses have a tendency to overbet on such horses and this process naturally drives the price down. Obviously, make sure the favourite is heavily tipped before backing it early.

Be your own detective and discover the racecourses where non-handicap favourites perform best and check out jockeys such as Paddy Brennan, Harry Cobden, and Nico de Boinville. The latter two have been making waves in Chase and Hurdles races respectively in the last couple of years.

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.
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