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Thursday, 29th Oct 2020

Can Pointing yards capitalize on a US market?

Chaddesley Corbett doesn’t share much in common with the famous Churchill Downs, home to next month’s Kentucky Derby, other than its spectators love horseracing. Nevertheless, it remains one of the strongest courses for betting among Point-to-Point courses, based on its winter programme of strongly contested races and could benefit from using some of the same approach that the Run for the Roses deploys to win the best competitors. 

Next month’s Kentucky Derby fixture, over two days September 4-5, would normally attract over 200,000 spectators. The Derby is a major social occasion, built around the Mint Julep, with a formidable betting turnover that even Cheltenham can only dream of. The USA’s Kentucky Derby picks allow the track to benefit from a global betting turnover topping $165.5m (2019). 

In order to run in the Kentucky Derby, horses have to earn points through a series of qualifying races. It’s the Derby’s equivalent of the road to Cheltenham, and not so dissimilar to the national Point-to-Point series that punctuate our calendar. 

Qualification for a national final has hitherto been a significant draw in attracting entries for races through the season, and as is so often the case, where one entry is made, others are made by the same yard in the supporting card. Given the importance of entry income to a fixture’s financial result, staging a national qualifier is an important influence. 

There is a strong trend in Point-to-Point racing presently to encourage young horses alongside the young riders we’ve successfully nurtured over many generations. The advent of Bumpers, young horse maidens and now a four year olds maiden – a Chaddesley innovation – is all part of a trend toward making the sport more of a stepping stone to Rules racing rather than part of the natural deterioration of older horses stepping down from the sport.

There is a role for both elements; last season’s Veterans Chase series was well received, just as the jointly-sponsored Tattersalls & Goffs  Young Horse Maiden Series was for young horses. In a Rules sport that is largely dominated by half a dozen very large stables where owners have seemingly bottomless pockets, the development of young horses through Pointing has allowed trainers struggling to create space for themselves under Rules a breathing space to develop and sell on young horses as a successful career. 

The likes of Phil Rowley, Charlie Poste and most recently Bradley Gibbs are examples of horsemen earning their spurs in Pointing with largely young horses as part of developing their careers in order to take out a professional trainer’s licence. 

These same young horses brought on in Point-to-Point races over here are sometimes finding their way to the USA, not of course to run in races like the Derby, but for east coast jump races. Over 400 horses are sold each year to race in the USA, and a growing number of these are Jumping cast-offs here that can succeed in the faster ground conditions of tracks like Far Hills, Saratoga and Belmont, as well as the smaller country tracks that are the beating heart of the US Jumps scene. 

At events like the Virginia Gold Cup or Callaway Gardens, British exports like American Ladie, trained by Alan King then Jamie Snowden, and rated 115 at best, have found their mark. 

Bob le Beau, formerly trained by Jessica Harrington through a flat then Jumps career, was sold to Elizabeth Voss’ stable in to much greater success at city tracks in the USA. And Scorpiancer, formerly with Rebecca Curtis, to whom he was sent after winning his Maiden Point-to-Point at Kildorrery, was subsequently sold to race in the US with great success, winning valuable races at Percy Warner Park, Belmont and most recently second to Brain Power in the Grade I Grand National Hurdle at Far Hills last year. Since leaving the UK, his rating has increased over 25lbs. 

 

In short, whilst the top-ranked races like the Run for the Roses hog the limelight, the Point-to-Point scene can capitalize on the US appetite for well-bred, fast chasers that prefer top of the ground conditions. 

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