Grade 2 Horse Races (National Hunt)

As their label would suggest, Grade 1 races are the cream of the crop when it comes to British National Hunt racing. Not far below them though - when it comes to both quality of performer and prestige - are the Grade 2 events. Together with Grade 1s, Grade 3s and Listed races, Grade 2s make up the category of Class 1 contests. No need to be confused about your Classes and your Grades. Class refers to the broader category, whereas the Grade represents a smaller section within that category.

There are currently 69 Grade 2 events on the British racing calendar, 36 over hurdles, 30 over fences and three National Hunt flat races or “Bumpers” (see table below for the full list). Here we take a closer look at the make-up and purpose of these Grade 2 events, and pick out some of the very best races which fall into the category.

RaceRacecourseDistanceAge
October
Persian War Novices' Hurdle Chepstow 2m 3½f 4yo +
Old Roan Chase Aintree 2m 4f 4yo +
West Yorkshire Hurdle Wetherby 3m 1f 4yo +
Charlie Hall Chase Wetherby 3m 1f 5yo +
Haldon Gold Cup Exeter 2m 1½f 4yo +
November
Rising Stars Novices' Chase Wincanton 2m 5f 4yo +
Elite Hurdle Wincanton 2m 4yo +
Hyde Novices' Hurdle Cheltenham 2m 5f 4yo +
Prestbury Juvenile Novices' Hurdle Cheltenham 2m ½f 3yo
November Novices' Chase Cheltenham 2m 4yo +
Shloer Chase Cheltenham 2m 5yo +
Sharp Novices' Hurdle Cheltenham 2m ½f 4yo +
1965 Chase Ascot 2m 5f 4yo +
Ascot Hurdle Ascot 2m 3½f 4yo +
Berkshire Novices' Chase Newbury 2m 4f 4yo +
Long Distance Hurdle Newbury 3m 4yo +
December
John Francome Novices' Chase Newbury 3m 4yo +
Winter Novices' Hurdle Sandown 2m 4f 4yo +
Many Clouds Chase Aintree 3m 1f 4yo +
Peterborough Chase Huntingdon 2m 4½f 4yo +
Bristol Novices' Hurdle Cheltenham 3m 4yo +
December Novices' Chase Doncaster 3m 4yo +
Summit Juvenile Hurdle Doncaster 2m ½f 3yo
International Hurdle Cheltenham 2m 1f 4yo +
Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle Ascot 2m 4yo +
Noel Novices' Chase Ascot 2m 5f 4yo +
Wayward Lad Novices' Chase Kempton 2m 4yo +
Desert Orchid Chase Kempton 2m 4yo +
January
Dipper Novices' Chase Cheltenham 2m 5f 5yo +
Relkeel Hurdle Cheltenham 2m 4½f 4yo +
Leamington Novices' Hurdle Warwick 2m 5f 4yo +
Warfield Mares' Hurdle Ascot 3m 4yo + m
Holloway's Hurdle Ascot 2m 3½f 4yo +
Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle Haydock 2m ½f 4yo +
Altcar Novices' Chase Haydock 2m 4f 5yo +
Champion Hurdle Trial Haydock 2m ½f 4yo +
Peter Marsh Chase Haydock 3m 5yo +
Finesse Juvenile Novices' Hurdle Cheltenham 2m 1f 4yo
Cotswold Chase Cheltenham 3m 1½f 5yo +
Classic Novices' Hurdle Cheltenham 2m 4½f 4yo +
Cleeve Hurdle Cheltenham 3m 5yo +
River Don Novices' Hurdle Doncaster 3m ½f 4yo +
Lightning Novices' Chase Doncaster 2m ½f 5yo +
Doncaster Mares' Hurdle Doncaster 2m ½f 4yo + m
Towton Novices' Chase Wetherby 3m 1f 5yo +
February
Kingmaker Novices' Chase Warwick 2m 5yo +
Denman Chase Newbury 3m 5yo +
Game Spirit Chase Newbury 2m 1f 5yo +
Winter Bumper Newbury 2m ½f 4–6yo
Jane Seymour Mares' Novices' Hurdle Sandown 2m 4f 4yo + m
Reynoldstown Novices' Chase Ascot 3m 5yo +
Rendlesham Hurdle Haydock 3m 1f 4yo +
Prestige Novices' Hurdle Haydock 3m 1f 4yo +
Kingwell Hurdle Wincanton 2m 4yo +
Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle Kempton 2m 4yo
Pendil Novices' Chase Kempton 2m 4½f 5yo +
Dovecote Novices' Hurdle Kempton 2m 4yo+
National Spirit Hurdle Fontwell 2m 3f 4yo +
Premier Kelso Hurdle Kelso 2m 2f 4yo +
March
National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup Cheltenham 4m 5yo +
Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle Cheltenham 2m 1f 4yo + m
Mares' Novices' Hurdle Finale Newbury 2m 4½f 4yo + m
April
Nickel Coin Mares' Standard Open NH Flat Race Aintree 2m 1f 4–6yo m
Champion Standard Open NH Flat Race Aintree 2m 1f 4–6yo
Silver Trophy Chase Cheltenham 2m 5f 5yo +
Future Champion Novices' Chase Ayr 2m 4f 5yo +
Scottish Champion Hurdle Ayr 2m 4yo +
Oaksey Chase Sandown 2m 7f 5yo +
Bet365 Select Hurdle Sandown 2m 5½f 4yo +

Providing Structure to the Season

From October’s Persian War at Chepstow all the way through to the Select Hurdle at Aintree in April, the fixture list provides a consistent stream of Grade 2 racing contests. The steady drip of these events is certainly no accident, with the British Horseracing Authority having put a lot of time and thought into achieving this result, and therefore providing a recognisable structure to the season.

The overriding aim of this structure – which is known in the racing world as the Pattern – is to provide high quality races over the full range of distances, be it over hurdles or in chase contests, in order to give the owners and trainers of the top talent a route through the season.

The Grade 2 races are really stepping stones along this route, with the ultimate destination being the major Grade 1s, which congregate towards the middle and end of the season. The Shloer Chase and Desert Orchid Chase for example – both run over 2m – will invariably attract contenders whose major objective is the Grade 1 Queen Mother Champion Chase over the same distance at the Cheltenham Festival.

Grade 2 Conditions

In common with Grade 1 races, the vast majority of Grade 2 contests are weight for age affairs. What that means is that the weight carried by the runners will be determined by the age and sex of the horse rather than said runner’s official handicap rating. Mares will generally carry 7lbs less than male horses, and those runners aged six and older will have to concede weight to their younger rivals.

The handicap contests which do fall under the Grade 2 banner tend to be Limited Handicaps. The weights carried in these events will be determined by official ratings, but restrictions will apply as to the quality of performer eligible to enter, for example some races will only be open to horses rated 140 or above, or limited to runners rated between 140 and 155.

Where Grade 2s do differ markedly from Grade 1s though is that there will usually be penalties in place for previous wins. The exact terms of these penalties will be listed in the conditions of the race, but in general, the higher the class of race previously won, the higher the weight penalty imposed. A recent Grade 1 winner stepping down into a Grade 2 for example can expect to be saddled with an additional burden.

Three of the Best

There are certainly plenty to choose from when it comes to British Grade 2 races, and each of the 69 on offer do have their individual merits. That said, the following three are our personal pick of the bunch.

National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup

As the only Grade 2 race run at the Cheltenham Festival, it’s hard to leave this cracking chase contest off the list. Being the only Grade 2 isn’t the only thing which makes this one stand out at the March meeting – it is also the longest race of the four days. Held over a gruelling four miles, only the toughest will prevail coming up the hill at the end of this marathon. The scene of many a thrilling finish over the years, the race counts 2018 Grand National hero Tiger Roll on its roll of honour.

Desert Orchid Chase

The festive period is certainly a good time to be a racing fan, with the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day being the obvious highlight. Held at the same track just one day later though is one of the very best contests for the speedy chasers of the season. Only brought into being in 2006, the race has already been won by six past or subsequent Champion Chasers including the brilliant Altior, and the incomparable Sprinter Sacre, who came home in front in 2015.

International Hurdle

It’s certainly not all about the chasers when it comes to the stand out Grade 2 events of the season though. A little earlier in December each year, the home of the National Hunt game lays on a real treat for fans of the slickest hurdlers in the game as Cheltenham plays host to the International Hurdle.

Held over a trip of 2m1f this race has paved the way to future Champion Hurdle glory on a number of occasions over the years, with the likes of Bula, Sea Pigeon and the tenacious grey Rooster Booster all backing up a win in this with success in the biggest hurdle of them all.

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