A novice in National Hunt horse racing is a horse which has not won in a particular type of race prior to the start of the current season. A novice hurdler has not won a hurdle race before the start of the current season, while a novice chaser has not won a steeplechase before the start of the current season.
A novice remains a novice until the end of the season in which it gains its first win in that particular category, no matter how many wins it achieves. Generally novices race against other novices although there is no restriction preventing novices competing against more experienced rivals. Occasionally a novice wins a major race outside novice company - Captain Christy and Coneygree both won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1974 and 2015 respectively as novices, as did Make A Stand in the 1997 Champion Hurdle.
A modern development has seen a concession whereby horses that record their first win in a given sphere in March or April may contest novice events up to 31st October of that year.
Principal novice races
The most important races run for novices in Great Britain are all run as Grade 1 events at the Cheltenham Festival
- RSA Chase run over three miles 110 yards.
- Arkle Challenge Trophy run over two miles (3 km).
- Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle run over two miles five furlongs.
- Supreme Novices' Hurdle run over two miles 110 yards.
- Triumph Hurdle run over two miles one furlong and restricted to four-year-olds only.