A National Surfeit

The Grand and Scottish Nationals have rightly taken centre stage on the last two Saturdays, writes Ian Sutherland. They are as good an indicator as any that the jumps season is all but over. Yet there is still one more National to run before the curtain falls, Perth’s Highland National, taking place this afternoon.

Matt’s positive mention of Royale Knight for the Scottish National led me to listen out for the thoughts of the television team. I was surprised to hear that he was already a winner of three Nationals, and astonished when I looked up his profile to find that they were the last three races he had won (a Borders National in 2013 and the Durham National in 2014 and 2015). Here we had a three time National winner that wasn’t on my radar at all.

It led me to wonder – are there too many Nationals?

How many do you think are run each season? And why are they all called a National? Now I’ve absolutely no quibble with the Grand, Scottish, Welsh and Irish races of that name. Each is a pinnacle of long distance handicap steeplechasing in the respective country, and the calling the race a National certainly helps to capture its importance.

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Yet the racing calendar includes another 13 “regional nationals”, surely a contradiction in terms if ever there was one.

The following table shows races run over a distance of 3m 2.5f or more, with those reserved for amateur and conditional jockeys, or novice and hunter chases. There are 45 of them, with 16, or just over a third, including the word National in the race name. There are two anomalies: I’ve included the Summer Cup, run at Uttoxeter, as until 2011 that was known as the Summer National. And from this season the West Wales National has been reduced from 3m 4f to 3m 1.5f, a great shame in my view.

One of the things that makes a National special is the spectacle of a large field of horses taking each other on. Five of our 16 Nationals fail on that score, unable to attract 10 runners this season. Indeed, for the Cambridgeshire National, only four horses went to post, down from five in 2014, and eight in its inaugural running in 2013.

That’s not what a National is about. It’s time to drop the word from some of these long distance chases.

Ian S


Date Course Title Distance Grade Runners
30-Apr-15 Sedgefield Free Bookmakers Bets 3m 2.5f Class 4 5
5-May-15 Sedgefield Jardines Catering 3m 2.5f Class 5 8
30-May-15 Stratford AMG Logistics 3m 3.5f Class 3 9
28-Jun-16 Uttoxeter John Smith’s Summer Cup 3m 2f Listed 17
3-Sep-15 Sedgefield Tips on this Race 3m 2.5f Class 5 8
12-Oct-16 Sedgefield Renew Holdings 3m 2.5f Class 3 5
25-Oct-16 Wincanton Desert Orchid Silver Cup 3m 2.5f Class 3 8
29-Oct-16 Sedgefield Durham National 3m 5f Class 3 7
6-Nov-15 Musselburgh Thistle systems 3m 2.5f Class 4 4
14-Nov-15 Cheltenham Murphy Group 3m 3.5f Grade 3 17
15-Nov-15 Fontwell Southern National 3m 3f Class 3 13
19-Nov-15 Wincanton Wincanton Interactive 3m 2.5f Class 4 6
21-Nov-15 Haydock Betfair Pricerush 3m 4.5f Class 3 8
24-Nov-15 Sedgefield Betfred follow us on Twitter 3m 2.5f Class 5 11
4-Dec-15 Exeter Brewin Marathon 3m 6.5f Class 3 12
5-Dec-15 Sandown London National 3m 5f Class 2 15
6-Dec-15 Kelso Borders National 4m 0.5f Class 3 8
26-Dec-15 Market Rasen Lincolnshire National 3m 3.5f Class 4 12
30-Dec-15 Haydock Last Fling 3m 3.5f Class 2 8
1-Jan-16 Cheltenham Watch Live Racing 3m 2.5f Class 2 8
9-Jan-16 Chepstow Welsh National 3m 5.5f Grade 3 20
14-Jan-16 Catterick N Yorks Grand National 3m 6f Class 3 12
16-Jan-16 Warwick Betfred Classic 3m 5f Class 1 14
21-Jan-16 Wincanton Somerset National 3m 2.5f Class 3 14
6-Feb-16 Fos Llas West Wales National 3m 1.5f Class 2 7
20-Feb-16 Haydock Grand National Trial 3m 4.5f Class 1 8
26-Feb-16 Exeter Devon National 3m 6.5f Class 3 12
22-Feb-15 Newcastle Eider 4m 0.5f Class 2 17
29-Feb-16 Ayr Dawn Homes Kilsyth 3m 3f Class 4 8
2-Mar-16 Bangor RAO/Racing Post 3m 5.5f Class 4 8
6-Mar-16 Huntingdon Cambridgehire National 3m 6.5f Class 3 4
13-Mar-16 Warwick Free Skips For Metal 3m 5f Class 3 11
14-Mar-16 Taunton Bathwick Tyres 3m 4f Class 3 6
17-Mar-16 Hexham Perfect Location 4m Class 4 6
19-Mar-16 Uttoxeter Midlands Grand National 4m 2f Listed 18
23-Mar-16 Warwick Executive Hire News 3m 5f Class 4 10
26-Mar-16 Haydock Tim Moloney 3m 4f Class 3 8
27-Mar-16 Plumpton Sussex National 3m 4.5f Class 3 8
9-Apr-16 Aintree Grand National 4m 2.5f Grade 3 39
12-Apr-16 Exeter Exeter Audi Stayers 3m 6.5f Class 3 9
13-Apr-16 Cheltenham Racing UK Now 3m 4f Class 3 16
16-Apr-16 Ayr Scottish Grand National 4m Class 1 28
21-Apr-16 Warwick Close Brothers 3m 5f Class 3
22-Apr-16 Perth Deeside Highland National 3m 6.5f Class 3
23-Apr-16 Sandown Bet365 Gold Cup 3m 4.5f Grade 3


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