What is a ‘bumper’?

What is a 'bumper'? ‘Bumper’ is a colloquial term used to describe a race officially known, rather confusingly, as a National Hunt Flat Race. Run under National Hunt Rules, typically over distances between 1 mile 4 furlongs and 2 miles 1 furlong, this type of race is intended to provide young, untried horses with racecourse experience without the adding complication of having to negotiate obstacles. No horse that has run under any recognised Rules of Racing, except in similar races in Britain and Ireland, or AQPS Flat races in France, or is aged more than seven years old, is eligible to run in a National Hunt Race.

Nowadays, ‘bumpers’ are often contested by fully-fledged professional jockeys but, historically, they were the preserve of inexperienced conditional and amateur jockeys. The combination of unseasoned horses and unpractised jockeys often had farcical consequences. The term ‘bumper’ was coined, disparagingly, to describe the uncoordinated efforts of the participants, including their propensity to bump into one another as the result of steering problems. That said, the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, which has been a fixture of the Cheltenham Festival since 1992, is a prestigious and valuable Grade 1 contest, with a roll of honour that includes the likes of Cue Card, Champagne Fever and Envoi Allen.