Cautious optimism around Jump Racing field sizes

02 Dec 15

The BHA Racing Department blogs about Jump field sizes as the latest monthly datapack is published.

As the Jump season kicks into top gear it seems like an appropriate time to take a look at how the code is performing in terms of the important measure of field sizes.

The backdrop to this is that in 2014 we published a Fixture List which included the addition of six extra Jump fixtures, which allowed us to provide a boost to Jump racecourses, including in the North, which was much needed. However, this also came at a time when field sizes generally were struggling. As a result it was clear that we had to take steps to ensure that the increase in number of fixtures did not have a further detrimental effect on field sizes.

Consequently we announced a series of initiatives designed to offset any impact on field sizes and reduce the number of small-field, uncompetitive races.

These initiatives included the removal of a number of races from certain ‘pinch-points’ in the racing calendar, in a targeted manner. In particular we targeted races on the All Weather in January to March and, over Jumps (especially Chases), in January to March and September through to November. The thinking behind this was to ensure that the growth in the size of the Jump fixture list did not lead to an unmanageable growth in the number of races run and knock-on effect on field sizes.

What has been revealed might be quite surprising to many, but – like on the Flat, which we analysed earlier this year – the signs are positive.

In the most basic terms, the decline in average field sizes over Jumps has been arrested and field sizes have improved marginally in the period January – October 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

Jump Races Run
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Steeple Chase 1,077 988 1,008 1,030 1,017
Hurdle 1,545 1,422 1,418 1,501 1,577
NHF 235 238 277 256 224
Hunter Chase 110 99 107 94 94
Total 2,967 2,747 2,810 2,881 2,912



Average Field Size (by Race Type)
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Steeple Chase 7.13 7.60 7.66 7.15 7.28
Hurdle 9.87 9.80 9.76 8.85 8.86
NHF 10.54 10.13 9.83 9.39 9.25
Hunter Chase 8.75 8.65 8.56 8.97 9.02
Total 8.89 8.99 8.97 8.29 8.35


The benefit has been felt most in Chases, reflective of the fact that these formed the majority of races which were removed from the programme. In fact, as a consequence of these steps we ran marginally less Chases in this period in 2015 compared to 2014.

More important than field sizes themselves though is a considerable reduction in the ‘failure rate’, by which we mean races with fewer than six runners. The proportion of such races has decreased by 18% compared to 2014.

Races with fewer than 6 Runners
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
% JUMP RACES 18.0% 16.4% 15.2% 19.8% 16.2%


Moreover, the ‘success rate’ – or number of races with eight or more runners – has improved by 7% in the same period, while the percentage of races with odds on favourites has also decreased from 18.8% to 17.8%.

Races with 8 (or more) Runners
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
% JUMP RACES 59.3% 62.2% 61.6% 51.7% 55.1%


It is also notable that 2015 has been a remarkably dry year and we’ve had very few abandonments. In a ‘normal’ year we might have expected to lose a few more fixtures which would generally result in higher average field sizes.

Another integral factor linked to field sizes is, obviously, the population of horses in training. Again, the signs are positive that the decline has been arrested and we are seeing the green shoots of growth in the Jumping population, including among younger horses.

Jump Horses In Training
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
3yo 60 51 63 69 72
4yo 528 505 467 477 516
5yo+ 3,879 3,767 3,818 3,629 3,665
Total 4,466 4,323 4,348 4,175 4,252


We are still not where we want to be. There are still too many races where the fields are too small and uncompetitive, and clearly there is much still to be done. However, the data shows that we have reversed the trend toward decline and are starting to go in the right direction.

Integral to tackling this issue in the longer term will be the success of the ‘Holistic Race Planning’ initiative we announced in August, with the objective of determining whether an optimised approach to creating the Race Programme can be taken that will better benefit horsemen, racecourses and the wider industry. Consultation is ongoing on this important project.

In addition, we are close to providing an update regarding our Review of Jump Racing. We commenced this Review earlier in the year and brought together a skilled team from across the industry with the remit to: assess the health of Jump racing; identify and examine the threats and challenges faced by Jump racing and create logical and deliverable solutions to these challenges; and to form a long-term strategy for the sport which outlines a path from which future growth and success can be delivered, including in relation to field sizes. Watch this space for an update on this Review in the coming weeks and the next steps for the sport off the back of the Review.

To view the full datapack covering the period January to October 2015 please visit here.