A horse's transition between flat and national hunt racing?

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A horse's transition between flat and national hunt racing?

Postby unexposed » Sun Nov 03, 2013 9:43 pm

Now let me just start by saying that i love NH racing, i actually think i have a slight preference to this code due to the long-standing understanding you get with horses seen year after year; and not to mention of course the Festival. My post is not in anyway an attempt to detract from jump racing or criticise it in anyway.

However, what makes flat horses able to successfully succeed over obstacles? For instance Our Conor was fairly modest on the flat, rated 85, yet he is a live Champion Hurdle contender. He does not have a stayers pedigree as such, by Jeremy who was a miler and out of a Sadlers Wells mare (so granted some stamina here) who was a winner of a class 3 over 1m 6f.

My question, is there were obviously horses much more competent than him on the flat and often who had a more out and out stayers pedigree, but what makes Our Conor a success over hurdles? I know many of the flat types are retired or go straight to stud, but say a horse like Nathaniel for example, a much classier animal than Our Conor on the flat, Group 1 winner over 1m 4f, demonstrated more stamina than Our Conor on the flat, came within half a length of Frankel over 1m so arguably more speed. If this horse went to a Nicky Henderson for example, surely he would be able to learn the jumping game and be a top top prospect over hurdles?

I realise it is not an exact science, but if the top ex-flat sorts were sent over hurdles would we really be talking about Our Conor as a Champion Hurdle contender?

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Postby NafVertone » Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:07 pm

I may be an exception here and despite Our Conor being the most visually impressive winner at last years festival,I would still have question marks about him being a proper Grade 1 performer over hurdles.I thought last years crop of juvenile hurdlers was of a poorer standard than previous years so would question how strong that form is.There is no doubt in my mind that Our Conor is a horse in the 160 bracket,but he is going to have to be in the 170+ bracket to win a Champion hurdle.I will reserve my full opinion of Our Conor until after the Morgiana hurdle and if he gives Hurricane Fly a race,then I will think he is up to champion hurdle class.

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Postby unexposed » Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:11 pm

Thats fair enough, i too have doubts if he is real top draw over the timber.

I supppose my main question is just how easy is it to transfer from flat to NH? Bloomfields have plenty of success but also a few flops. Dessie Hughes thinks Our Conor is 'special', but i wonder what he would think if horses such as Nathaniel as mentioned previously were placed in his yard.

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Postby davidg3907 » Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:32 pm

I feel some people do not appreciate the difference between 12f+ on the level and 16f+ over hurdles ( ignoring chasing for the moment ).

I am rarely interested in a horse that had form over much more than 8f on turf ( 10f at a stretch ) until proving themselves in the new sphere.

Two mile hurdlers primarily need to jump a few obstacles and then race over the remainder of the trip , placing a much greater emphasis on speed than on stamina for two miles.

Cesarewitch winner Aaim To Prosper disppointed many when turning his hand to hurdling , but not me. Eventually his class may tell over 3m+ or better still if he can adapt to fences.

The most extreme example of course was probably ' Rummy ' who was bred to stay up to a mile and whose best effort on the level saw him dead heat in a 5f seller before his antics in the National.

I knew he was ridden by Lester Piggott in his early days but only just found out he was ridden by LEE MACK when he was a stable boy ! :lol:
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Postby deswalker » Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:38 pm

From my understanding there are a few things that a horse needs to be able to succeed at a high level over jumps, and they are possibly completely unrelated to their ability on the flat.

1) They have to have the right attitude, they have to stay well enough but its more about the horse wanting to put its all in.

2) Obviously, they have to be able to jump, and there are physiological qualities that NH trainers will look for (like well developed hind quarters) which will help a horses ability to jump but can make the horse unwieldy or too one paced for racing on the flat. It just does come down to the individual though really.

3) They have to settle properly so they don't burn out their energy too early in their races. This doesn't seem to always come easily to former flat horses after they have got used to running at a faster pace when the obstacles are in the way. Gelding helps with this as far as I understand, and also with putting the necessary muscle mass on...

4) ...which brings me to training. NH training is far more stamina intensive and concentrates on developing the hind quarters where all the power comes from (as well as schooling over jumps). As a result horses trained for jumping may get a bit one paced for flat running subsequently.

So, in answer to the main thrust of the post; would Nathaniel carry the world before him if put over hurdles? The answer is... maybe, if they started early enough in the game to develop the necessary characteristics.

But he, or others like him, never would go over hurdles because they are far too valuable to risk bouncing over timber.

I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has first hand experience of all this, rather than what I have pieced together over the years.

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Postby NafVertone » Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:42 pm

I think a lot of horses who flop over hurdles when switching codes,it's a case of lacking the temperament for hurdles more than anything else.When I look at any horses who make the switch,the more successful ones are the ones who have a few wins under their belt in the flat game rather than too many placed attempts even if they come with a higher flat mark .Another thing I have noticed is if they come to the NH game late from the flat game.I would be very slow in backing anything older than 5 making it's debut over jumps from the flat.I think they have picked up far too many bad habits by that stage in their careers.

There are also plenty of times when connections decide to switch codes as a last resort,when they have no chance of staying a 2 mile trip on pedigree.

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Postby smeemartin » Mon Nov 04, 2013 8:17 pm

Des wrote...
4) ...which brings me to training. NH training is far more stamina intensive and concentrates on developing the hind quarters where all the power comes from (as well as schooling over jumps). As a result horses trained for jumping may get a bit one paced for flat running subsequently.
This makes a lot of sense. I don't really follow flat racing ,but this would explain why most NH trainers have a fairly steep uphill schooling gallop..

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Postby bdodarts » Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:41 am

I know many of the flat types are retired or go straight to stud, but say a horse like Nathaniel for example, a much classier animal than Our Conor on the flat, Group 1 winner over 1m 4f, demonstrated more stamina than Our Conor on the flat, came within half a length of Frankel over 1m so arguably more speed. If this horse went to a Nicky Henderson for example, surely he would be able to learn the jumping game and be a top top prospect over hurdles?
i would say nathaniel would struggle to win a maiden hurdle.

it's been tried before , the best example is Simenon, really smart flat horse, 2nd in the Gold Cup this year , was thought to be a future Champion Hurdler but he just can't jump. he has won is fair share of prize money but in a 2 horse race with our conor, who's the winner?

weld tried hrdles with rite of passage but that failed.

it's a different sport imo, you either take to 1 code or both codes.

unexposed- would you back treve at evens in a maiden hurdle?? i wouldn't.

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Postby bdodarts » Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:46 am

lets see how good this horse is tiger cliff , decent flat horse, hopefully he turns into a decent hurdler, being a contender for Cheltenham in March would be nice.

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Postby deswalker » Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:54 pm

Interesting example of a flat horse that was retrained to be a very decent jumper running today. Kumbeshwar was rated 81 at his peak on the flat for David Evans, but finished his career in that sphere winning a Southwell handicap worth £2,500, admittedly with ease.

He runs in the Haldon Gold Cup today off 148, so you would say that he is a considerably better jumper than a flat runner.

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Postby bobs71 » Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:08 pm

I know this thread refers to top class NH Horses but as new Sires and Dams bloodlines are gradually introduced year by year into the mix and training methods change and improve year by year your average racehorse will generally be dual purpose in the not to distant future. There are many more dual purpose horses now than say 25 - 30 years ago. Of course there will be exceptions but it will come down to economics and getting the most out of horses faster, quicker and longer. Just like everything else in the world that has a use , horses will be used to the Max. The future aint too bright.

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Postby Flat Cap and Whippet » Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:11 pm

Another flat to jumps convert for Nicky Henderson here:

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