What is a steeplechase?

A steeplechase, more commonly known as a chase, is a race run over fences.

Steeplechases are run over distances that range between 2 and 4½ miles (3.2 and 7.2 km).  The runners jump over a variety of obstacles that can include plain fences, water jumps or open ditches. The fences in chases are a minimum of 4½ feet (1.3m) high and are made of a mixture of birch and spruce.

Chases do not use starting stalls, but start from behind elasticated tapes that stretch across the racecourse. Jockeys circle their horses and then walk towards the tapes when called in by the Starter. When the tapes are released, the race is off.

Chasers – horses that run in steeplechases – tend to be older and may have run previously in hurdle races. This is to gain racing experience and to learn jumping technique.

What’s in a name?

The name comes from jump racing’s origins in Ireland, when young men would race their horses from church steeple to church steeple jumping any and all obstacles in between.

Fast Fact

  • There are 40 racecourses across the UK that stage steeplechases.
  • The Grand National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Queen Mother Champion Chase are the best known steeplechases.
  • Amateur steeplechasing is called Point To Pointing.

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