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Is it time for Australia to re-embrace jumps racing?

  • Why can't Australia see more jumps racing?
Huge crowds attend the Cheltenham festival every year in England (Getty Images)

Is it time for Australia to re-embrace jumps racing?

Jumps racing has a long and storied history in the thoroughbred industry and is a staple of the sport of kings. 

Australia has looked to remove jumps racing from the calendar but the exponential growth of the Warrnambool Racing Festival in particular has thrust the sport back into the spotlight. 

It is a true test of will and staying spirit.Jumps racing is considered one of the pillars of the sport in England when the nation almost comes to a standstill for the Cheltenham festival every year in March. 

The UK knows that jumps season is part of the rich tapestry that is horse racing, so why are we so adamant it needs to be wiped out?

We as a sport have been too quick to embrace change based on the perceptions of the ignorant few, so I'm going to outline why we should go the other way and expand the winter months to increase the amount of jumps racing we have on the calendar.

Jumps Racing - Perception vs Reality

There are plenty of race goers that do not like jumps racing because they believe it is cruel to make horses jump over obstacles.  

 Is this the reality though?  

 Plenty of provisions have been put in place to make jumps racing safer for the horse and the jockey, but let's face it, if a 450kg horse doesn't want to jump over an obstacle there's not a lot a person who's 10 per cent of the animal's body weight can do to force it over. 

 To compound this fallacy, naysayers will also tell you that jumps racing isn't popular, which couldn't be further from the truth. The Warrnambool Racing Carnival routinely draws thousands of race goers to Southern Victoria for the festivities every May. 

It's Australia's biggest jumps festival, but it pales in comparison to the Cheltenham Festival in England, which delivers brilliant jump racing action that captivates the tens of thousands that visit on course. 

 Warrnambool shows there's a thirst for jumps racing in Australia. If the authorities embraced this rather than trying to placate the masses then they would see this as an opportunity to expand.

Jumps Racing - Embrace The Opportunity

The opportunity to see more jumps racing will generate plenty of opportunities for country tracks to showcase top tier action. 

Traralgon is a prime example of a track that would benefit greatly from an expanded schedule. 

The race club hosts jumps trials so there is no reason why they can't host jumps racing, but that is where Racing Victoria (RV) need to step up to fund the club, as well as others all around Victoria to give not only the clubs, but the locals to witness the best if they are unable to travel.

I am not saying to destroy what is special about Australian jumps racing by running a $100,000 feature every week, but instead have other clubs host more meetings, instead of having Sandown host two features during the season, relinquish one to Sale or host the added sixth hurdle feature at Sale.

This would help generate more revenue for not only RV, but the local communities on the Eastern side of Melbourne, and give them the chance to see top class horses run.

Jumps racing is a spectacle to watch, so let's share that with everyone, or at least give it a try.

Jumps Racing FAQ

What is a hurdle race?

A hurdle is a short fence, made from a soft synthetic brush, at a minimum of three and a half feet high, run over a distance of usually 3200m.

What is a steeple race?

Made of a much taller fence, races a run over a slightly longer journey on average, in which usually a hurdler is not as effective over.

What is the Warrnambool Carnival?

A three day racing carnival held at Warrnambool racecourse, this carnival often draws total crowds of over 100,000 people, clearly making this the most popular jumps racing period on the Australian calendar.

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