Provisional fixture applications are almost complete, and while the Point-to-Point Authority (PPA) Board and British Horseracing Authority (BHA) have yet to ratify the list there have been requests for early-season fixtures across the country.
PPA Board member Nick Sutton, who chairs the Authority’s fixtures list committee, said: “The message I would like to get across to owners and trainers is ‘Get your horses up, there is plenty of early-season racing to go at’.”
Britain staged eight pre-New Year fixtures last year, but that could become 14 when the new season opens in November. Early fixtures which have taken place in recent years in Devon & Cornwall, East Anglia, the South Midlands, Northern and Wessex Areas could be joined by a Welsh Borders’ meeting, fixtures in both South and West Wales and in the Midlands.
New venues at Eaton Hall in Herefordshire and Ffos Las in Carmarthenshire are scheduled to be among the courses staging these fixtures, while the Northern Area could stage two meetings, with one at Alnwick being joined by another at Hexham. A single, pre-Christmas meeting at Barbury Racecourse has become two with the International Meeting now due to take place a month earlier.
Changes to the way in which courses are given financial support from the grant given to point-to-pointing by the Horserace Betting Levy Board have been a key factor in the new look to early meetings.
Sutton said: “From both a geographical and date-in-the-calendar standpoint we are trying to achieve a balance in the locations and dates of meetings while allowing Organising Committees choose the time of the season which suit them best. There is a bulge in fixtures around Easter, and they are a bit thin on the ground at other times of the season – if we were to create a fixture list from scratch today it wouldn’t look like the current one.
“By creating a platform for change we are encouraging Organising Committees to look at other options, and to say to them, you can hold a meeting in November, December or January and gain good financial support. We have done this by reducing the grant given to meetings in April and increasing it for early-season fixtures – this initiative was agreed upon by the Levy Board, the Point-to-Point Secretaries’ Association [PPSA]. It has been a motivating factor, and while I hoped we could create 12 early-season meetings it looks like we could be up to 14.
“From provisional applications I am delighted to see these early fixtures are spread around the country and pretty evenly balanced over the weekends [leading up to New Year’s Day].
“Point-to-Pointing is competing against many different leisure activities whatever the time of year, and I appreciate there are many other rural sports and pastimes taking place in November and December, but where there’s a will there’s a way.”
Stephen Howlett, Chairman of the PPSA, who are in charge of fixing the annual calendar of Point-to-Point fixtures prior to submitting to the PPA and BHA said: “We welcome this new initiative and it is pleasing to see such encouraging uptake and a few more fixtures in the first months of the season.”
A finalised fixtures’ list is expected to be released in the next month – below are the meetings which have applied for a pre-New Year date: