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Top characteristics to look for in a racehorse

Racing remains one of the most popular sports around the UK, despite, or perhaps because of the current lockdown arrangements that have prevented almost any spectators attending sport since last year’s Festival. Full of action and excitement, the sport of kings always delivers plenty of drama to watching fans. One other reason why this sport is so well-loved is the variety of racing that it offers.

Point-to-point racing has an immensely loyal support group, for example, as the amended 2021 P2P racing calendar shows, where a large number of fixtures remain, even behind closed doors. There is also, of course, the professional National Hunt sector to consider; the two divisions segue naturally one to another like never before given the added importance of the hunter chase calendar presently. National Hunt racing has over 500 fixtures in a regular season, as well as the special one-off festivals that we all know and love, including Pointing’s own last hurrah at Stratford in a couple of months.

Of these, the annual Cheltenham Festival in March each year is the pick of the bunch for many in the West Midlands, and is enthusiastically followed by racing fans who like to bet on the sport. If this includes you, then getting Day 1 tips for the Cheltenham Festival from cheltenhamfestival.net is a wise move. This website is made up of horse racing experts who have the latest info and tips to pass on to punters to profit from.

Whatever kind of racing you follow, the horses themselves are key. For many who follow Pointing, spotting what makes a good athlete comes naturally, but for punters, being able to spot the characteristics of a good horse can really help – but what are the most common to look out for?

Attitude

 The simple fact is that winning any kind of race is a real battle, whether you’re a horse or its trainer. A top characteristic to look out for, then, is a horse that has shown a real will to win in the past – and the ability to actually get over the line in front. If a horse has been down in the last furlong before but steamed back to win by a nose, then you know that it has the right spirit. 

The horse as a herd animal is often more than prepared to race with its contemporaries in a race. Getting them to take the lead when it counts is not always so straightforward. And as we’ll all know, some horses get streetwise as they grow older.

 

Build

Although this is a broad brush statement, a horse’s build  usually signals how well it might race. In short, most top-level racehorses have a bone structure that is in proportion to their overall size. Leg bones are often something that people look at – although they do not need to be massive, most good racers have a decent size and strength to them.

Time was when a top chaser looked more like a sport horse – big face, large feet, a stout and robust frame. But times have changed; today’s chasers are dwarfed on the hunting field, being much lighter-boned nowadays, but with more speed. Contrast the likes of the 17hh Party Politics with the 15h2 Little Polveir. They both won the National, but were separated by six inches in height.

Different types of horse appeal to different trainers too. Martin Pipe’s horses were lean and athletic in the main, whilst Venetia Williams chooses horses with rounded actions, which is why she’s always a trainer to follow when the mud is flying in mid-winter.

 

Breeding

 For many people, a good pedigree is something that all top racehorses share. In simple terms, if the horse comes from the best stock, then it should have the parents’ genetics to race well. If you look at all the top-level horses in racing, most of them will have an impressive pedigree.

And just like the humans that train and ride them, pedigree runs in strains through families. Trainers are always attracted to horses from families where they’ve already trained winning stock.

Pedigree is no guarantee of success though. There are wrong’uns in every pack!

 

Good race horses share some of the same attributes

 As the above shows, there is no doubt that there are some common traits that all good racehorses share. From decent pedigree to size, structure and the right mentality, there are some things that horses need to race well. The next time you are following the racing, why not try to spot some of them yourself?

The long and winding road to life as a trainer

Among horse racing fans within the West Midlands area, David Dennis is a familiar name. For more than two decades, the jockey-turned-trainer has accumulated a wealth of knowledge within the racing industry. Having ridden successfully between 2000 and 2011, he knows what it takes to win and what’s required from an elite-level horse. So, now that he’s a trainer, Dennis will be targeting similar achievements. So far, though, it’s been a rocky road. 

Will he target the Cheltenham Festival?  

As a rider, the Cheltenham Festival  wasn’t a fruitful fixture.  With over 230 winners to his name, Dennis was well established around the Midlands courses, but was unable to break into the big time, despite riding 40 winners in the 2004-5 season. His biggest winner was in the Edward Hanmer Chase at Haydock, a race he won three years on the bounce with Manrtin Todhunter’s Kingsmark. Ian Williams’ Brewster gave him a couple of Grade II victories in the 2005 Bristol Novices at Cheltenham’s International meeting and the Challow, but he surrendered the ride to Dickie Johnson at the Festival.

At Jump racing’s annual jamboree, Dennis has yet to enjoy horses good enough to make the grade at Cheltenham, but this is hardly unusual for trainers starting from scratch. 

On taking out a trainer’s licence in 2017, he teamed up with Favourites Racing, the Midlands’ most popular racing club. In March 2017, he opened a 60-box yard facility at Tyre Hill Stables, not far from the Three Counties Showground. Even during the launch of the new stables, the 129-race-winning trainer coincided the unveiling with the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, showcasing his admiration and appetite for Cheltenham. After opening the yard, Dennis indicated that he aimed to increase the “number and quality” of horses coming through under his watchful eye.   

Winners flowed readily in his first two seasons, notching up 20, then 25 winners, from 2016-17 and the subsequent year. Roman Flight won a valuable Handicap Chase for the yard and for Favourites in November 2016 at Newbury and he looked set to capitalize on early success. But as any start-up will testify, whatever the sector, success on the track is only half the battle. The constant battle to win owners, win races and get paid makes running small yards an insuperable challenge for those that don’t own their own premises, and winners dwindled. 

Last summer, Dennis threw in his lot with Tom Symonds, and brought his owners across to the new partnership as part of being his assistant. The pair have enjoyed an excellent season, with some high profile winners, but the name on the licence remains T Symonds. Recognition for Dennis’s contribution got lost in translation. 

David Dennis had ridden plenty for Matt Sheppard previously, and been rewarded with 16 winners for the Eastnor stable during his career. When an opportunity arose to work with Matt instead, Dennis grabbed the chance with both hands, arriving with eleven additional horses to sweeten the deal. 

Matt is one of racing’s great survivors, running a tight ship that has allowed him and Nicky to work for themselves without owing anyone anything. And therein lies a lesson for any wannabe trainer. Not overreaching ones finances is step one to a happy and sustainable business. Eastnor won’t ever be operating on the scale of Jackdaws or Ditcheat, whether in quantity or quality, but it’s solvent, and successful, and in horses like The Bay Birch, now rated 128+, they have talent that might yet titillate in Saturday races.

Being  the favourite at horse racing bets for events at the Festival is unlikely in 2021. You’ll find Matt Sheppard running horses at Huntingdon more likely on Festival Wednesday and watching the Cheltenham race card from afar.  

What does the future hold? 

But both Sheppard and Dennis are ambitious. The combination together, with access to an affluent county set in Worcestershire and Birmingham less than an hour’s drive, mean a rise in quality is certainly manageable, and highly desirable. 

This season, though, for these two, as for so many, is one of survival. There may be rich pickings for the sport’s leaders at the very top of the sport, but the going is rougher for those lower down the food chain.

Oceans apart: American success in our top races is hard to come by

Your starter for 10… When was the last US trained winner of a Jumps race in the UK?

American horses face some big obstacles coming over to Europe to compete over Jumps, but every few years, someone else comes to have a tilt at the big prizes. And whilst they rarely trouble the judge, we can’t fault their enthusiasm in trying. 

The very best US horses have succeeded over here, but many of them are British or Irish exports coming back after excelling over there. In fact, the US steeplechase calendar is filled with British horses and riders, the first of which are firm ground specialists and the second riders finding the summer season over there more rewarding than flitting between Hexham and Newton Abbot over  here. 

This year, there is once again a US entry for the Champion Hurdle. Winston C is one of just 6 horses with Keri Brion in Ireland, who, as his former assistant,  has taken over the licence of US Chasing giant, Jonathan Sheppard, now retired at 80. It’s another brave attempt by the Americans to compete at the highest level of the sport, on terms that are rarely to their advantage. 

If you were to track your previous bets on US success over here, you’d cease betting pretty quickly I suspect. Nevertheless, here though are some of America’s more successful imports:

Chenango

Historians among you will recognize the winner of the 1935 Champion Hurdle, a gelding who’d been a leading chaser in the US in 1931. Chenango was one of two American horses trained by Ivor Anthony at Wroughton, the other being Flaming, an Imperial Cup winner but with glass legs. 

The 1935 renewal of the race wasn’t sadly anything special. Only 5 ran and Chenango galloped home to win unopposed by 5l. The following year he ran an undistinguished race in the County Hurdle and died that summer.

Battleship

Battleship was a stocky but small horse of just 15hh 2, bred in Lexington, Kentucky, and owned by Marion duPont, a descendant of the billionaire chemicals dynasty. After winning the American Grand National, she shipped Battleship over to the UK to be trained for the National, by Reg Hobbs in Lambourn. 

Battleship was withdrawn in the preparation for the 1937 National and set for a run in the following year’s race, ridden by Reg’s son Bruce, subsequently a successful Flat trainer. At just 17, the diminutive pair couldn’t actually see over the Chair, and confidence was so poor that Hobbs Snr had special reins made with an additional 18″ length!

In an eventful race in which Hobbs Jnr was saved after a mistake by one Fred Rimell, Battleship and Danieli took up the running after Becher’s second time around. Battleship made a shocking mistake 3 out, but giving his horse time to recover, Hobbs drove his horse to the line, and won by a head.

The horse and owner were greeted on the quay in New York on their return that Spring by an enormous crowd.

Jay Trump

The horse to set the ball rolling in the modern era was Jay Trump, bought by amateur rider Tommy Smith, who raced from 1962-66 inclusive. Jay Trump showed early talent, winning the first of three Maryland Hunt Cups in 1963, and that win, with a course record,  set up the idea of a tilt at the National. Jay Trump won the Hunt Cup a second time the following year, and was shipped to England for the autumn, housed with Fred Winter in Lambourn in his first season training. 

Two autumn victories set him up for a run in the King George on Boxing Day, assisted by a dry autumn that replicated conditions that would have applied in the US. On the back of wins at Sandown and Windsor (remember them Jumping?), he was remarkably installed favourite for Aintree but needed a third race to qualify for a handicap mark before entries closed in early January. The King George was that race.

Although the King George had been around since 1937, the race didn’t at that juncture hold the same prestige as now. With more emphasis on handicaps creating the structure of the season, reinforced by the advent of serious sponsorship to endow them well, a mere conditions race like the King George had fallen behind. As a result only 3 entries stood their ground for the 1964 King George, comprising Mill House, Frenchman’s Cove and Jay Trump. 

Yet the field was to diminish further after a heavy frost elicited the withdrawal of 33 runners that day, Mill House among them, ensuring the smallest field in the race’s history. The match  did not excite the crowd; Jay Trump was deliberate in his jumping and finished a distant second, but with a handicap mark of 11st 5lb for the National. 

The 112 entries for the race distilled down to 47 runners, headed by 1964 Cheltenham Foxhunter winner Freddie. The race was run in the shadow of the first modern threat to the National, Mrs Mirabel Topham having declared the previous autumn that she intended to sell the site for development. 

Jay Trump’s amateur rider, Tommy Smith, admirably coached by Winter, rode an excellent race weaving bis way around a pile-up at Becher’s on the first circuit and taking up the running at the Canal Turn a circuit later with Freddie. On the run to the elbow, with Freddie neck and neck, Crompton drew his stick, and Jay Trump nearly downed tools, but reverting to hands and heels, he drew clear to win by 3/4l. The winning owner received £22,041 (£365,016 now). 

Jay Trump went back to the US to win a further Maryland Hunt Cup the following year before retirement. 

Ben Nevis

It wasn’t until 1980 that another British-bred horse was to venture across the Atlantic to win the National, ridden by another enthusiastic amateur in Charlie Fenwick. 

Ben Nevis started his career in Point-to-Points but without distinction which led him to be exported to the US. Twice a winner of the Maryland Hunt Cup, he was despatched back to Britain to Tim Forster at Letcombe Regis to run in the Grand National of 1979 where he was brought down at the Chair.

He reappeared in the race the following year, when totally unfancied in the heavy ground, and left the paddock to eternal pessimist Forster’s perpetual instruction to his National jockeys, “keep remounting”. Fenwick, though, had done his homework, as this ambition had been some time in the making; his grandfather had narrowly lost the National in 1928 when US trained Billy Barton was runner-up. Moving into contention at the 19th, Ben Nevis was left in the lead at Becher’s second time around and won unchallenged by 20l.

Flatterer

Trained in Pennslyvania by Hertfordshire-born Jonathan Sheppard, Flatterer was already a winner of four Colonial Cups and two Temple Gwathmeys in 22 victories by the time he was sent over to run in the 1987 Champion Hurdle. Unlike his predecessors, he wasn’t trained in Britain before running at Cheltenham; contemporary air transport allowed him to be flown over just 4 days before the race. 

The previous spring, he’d been flown to Paris where he ran second in the French Champion Hurdle, so his form on typical Spring ground in Europe was well known. 

Up with the pace throughout, he was headed running down the hill, but ran on with great vigour to give an almighty fright to See You Then, winning his third consecutive Championship. But for misjudging the last, the margin of 1 1/2l would have been considerably smaller.

Flatterer didn’t return to Britain again, and was retired the following year after pulling up in the Breeders Cup Chase at Camden.

Lonsesome Glory

Winner of 23 of his 42 starts, Lonesome Glory came to the attention of British racegoers through an innovative addition to the racing programme, the brainchild of Cheltenham’s Edward Gillespie with one-time amateur rider and racing impressario George Sloan. 

In the autumn of 1988, the new trans-Atlantic Sport of Kings Challenge was introduced, with qualifying races in the US autumn campaign, followed by races at Cheltenham, Chepstow and Leopardstown. Designed largely for progressive Intermediate horses, the Challenge offered significant prize money, especially in the US, and bonuses for winning on both sides of the Pond. 

The initial US challenge for the inaugural contests at Cheltenham was nothing short of remarkable, with four travellers from America. However, they were to find the difference in ground conditions an intolerable burden. In fact, in the early years weather disrupted the Series to the extent that Chepstow was dropped altogether. 

It wasn’t until December 1992 that Bruce Miller and his daughter Blythe sent over Lonsesome Glory to win the Cheltenham leg by a head. After Cheltenham, during which we won a $50,000 bonus for winning a Sport of Kings race on both sides of the Pond, Lonsesome Glory was campaigned with great success back in the USA, winning a Colonila Cup and Camden Hurdle, before being switched to Charlie Brooks at Lambourn for the ’95-96 season whilst Bruce held the fort back home. 

He ran 3 times that season, winning a handicap chase at Sandown, beating the likes of Egypt Mill Prince and Remittance Man, whilst See More Business won his Novices Hurdle on the same card. However, he wasn’t able to handle the conditions at Haydock in January in the Peter Marsh, and his owners opted to send him home again after he incurred a muscle injury.

The subsequent year, he picked up the Carolina Cup and a third Colonial Cup before retiring in 1999.

 

AMENDED FIXTURE LIST FOR 2021

Please find here a download of the 2020/21 point-to-point fixture list, with the latest amendments (as of January 25).

WEST MIDLAND PARTICPANTS PLEASE NOTE THAT AT THE TIME OF THIS PRESS RELEASE ALL REMAINING WEST MIDLANDS FIXTURES REMAIN WITH THE EXCEPTION OF KNIGHTWICK RACES ON 25TH APRIL.

FEBRUARY/MARCH 

Providing government clearance is received, the February and March fixtures are all confirmed to run even if behind closed doors. In the unlikely event that one drops out, in most cases we have nearby reserves waiting to replace them.

APRIL-JUNE

From April onwards, the list has removed those fixtures which will not run under any circumstances. However, the remainder have different options on whether they will run with or without paying public. What we can confirm is that there is a very full list of fixtures willing to run without the paying public from Easter all the way through to the end of the season. Each month will be firmed up in advance as you will have noted we have been doing since October.

2020/21 Fixture List


BHA REGULATION 34

Please also note that the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has agreed to an amendment to Regulation 34. Those horses which had registered hunter certificates by 1 Jan 2021 and then moved under rules, can return to pointing and run after 14 days (rather than 28 days as currently stipulated) providing the horse is moved within 14 days of resumption of point to points. This is for all horses that took out Hunter Certs by 1 Jan 2021 whether they ran in a point to point or not before the New Year. There will be no need to re-register, but checks will be done. This is a one-off for this very peculiar set of circumstances.

NB If you run a point to pointer in a hunters’ chase, without sending the horse to a licensed trainer or permit holder, the horse can immediately return to point to pointing – see reg 34 (ii) and (iii). There seems to be a belief that once you go hunter chasing that’s it for the season – not true!

Could Point-to-Point graduates Native River and Samcro shine at the Cheltenham Festival?

Fans of horse racing all over the world will have their eyes locked on a small town not far from the West Midlands in March.

The Cheltenham Festival, four days of elite-level National Hunt racing, will take place from March 16-19, and two former point-to-point horses could play a key role in the shake-up of the festival’s flagship race.

Admittedly, both Samcro and Native River will need to improve on their most recent form if they are to have any chance of winning the Gold Cup, but the pair have both won at Cheltenham before and that tends to be an excellent breeding ground for subsequent success.

Indeed, Native River is already a former Gold Cup winner, outstaying the field in the mud back in 2018, and after a season-ending injury in February 2020 he is looking to bounce back in style this year.

That success came from humble beginnings too, as the now eleven-year-old began his career on the point-to-point circuit – unseating his rider in one notable failure at Dromahane.

Native River won his maiden National Hunt race at Stratford and his finest hour at Cheltenham saw him outlast Might Bite to win the Gold Cup for Colin Tizzard and connections.

The Irish horse has been declared for the 2021 edition of the renewal, and while he is considered nothing more than an outsider in the ante-post Cheltenham Festival horse racing betting odds, the pedigree of Native River suggests he simply cannot be overlooked.

Samcro’s Happy Hunting Ground

It’s been a curious 2020/21 season for Samcro so far. Returning to his native Ireland in the Grade 2 Lough Construction Chase, the nine-year-old was well beaten by Battleoverdoyen having nothing to spare in the final furlong run-in.

And then worst was to come just after Christmas when Gordon Elliott’s charge was pulled up in the Savills Chase when well off the pace.

The trainer confirmed he would be giving Samcro a few days off immediately afterwards following his ‘disappointing’ run, and there will be plenty of attention for his Cheltenham warm-up run after the former Festival winner was declared for the Gold Cup.

 

Sired by the American horse Germany, Samcro also started life as a point-to-pointer and really caught the eye when winning at Monksgrange – Elliott himself forking out £335,000 to capture the then six-year-old from the Goffs UK Aintree Sale.

A number of wins in Ireland followed as a lead-in to the 2018 edition of the Cheltenham Festival, where Samcro so impressively won the Ballymore Novices Hurdle by two-and-a-half lengths.

A low-key 2019 gave way to the following year and, once again, Samcro revelled in the Cheltenham Festival air when landing the Marsh Novices’ Chase title from Melon by the shortest of noses.

Since then it’s been something of a drought for the hardy chaser, but even so his – and Native River’s – Cheltenham pedigree confirms they should not be discounted by those looking for a value flutter. Not bad for two former point-to-pointers!

Meanwhile, closer to home, the first Hunter Chase of the year marked a successful return to the track for Hazel Hill in his bid to win back the Cheltenham Foxhunter Chase. Under professional Lee Edwards, he joined the leader at the last and was pushed out for a comfortable win. Unremarkably considering the lack of other opportunities, there was a large field of 13 (16 declared but some withdrawals because of the ground). There may never be a better year for the leading UK pointer to win back his crown in March.

Why 2021 Festival Could be West Midlands Trainer Dan Skelton’s Time to Shine

Dan Skelton is no stranger to Cheltenham Festival success. He has already accomplished so much in National Hunt horse racing from his Alcester stables in the West Midlands county of Warwickshire, including training 200 winners in a season.

Whether it is bringing British pointers into the yard or smart buys from abroad through the Sales, the quality and quantity of racehorses Skelton has at his disposal are increasing all the time. While the stable has sent out three of the last five winners of the County Hurdle at Cheltenham, they are now looking to build on handicap successes with Grade 1s during the Festival.

Skelton has a more than decent crop of novice hurdlers and chasers at his disposal going into 2021. British Pointer runner-up Third Time Lucki got in amongst the Irish contingent in last season’s Champion Bumper when fourth.

He may feature among each-way picks for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or the Ballymore over slightly further from horse racing experts. Although beaten in a Supreme trial after winning his first two outings over the smaller obstacles, this promising young horse may have been given too much to do.

Skelton and the same owners, Mike and Eileen Newbould, also have Wilde About Oscar in training. You can expect him and Third Time Lucki, who is 33/1 for either race, to be kept apart come Cheltenham.   

The Arkle already seems to be all about the 2020 Supreme winner Shishkin, but Allmankind has improved for switching to fences. A headstrong juvenile for Skelton last season, he is now settling better and has captured a second career Grade 1 in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

Sound jumping makes Allmankind a viable alternative to Shishkin for those looking to oppose a warm favourite in the Arkle. Envoi Allen is another 2021 Cheltenham Festival hotpot, but Protektorat is another who put in a fluent round and is now two from two over fences.

Given his Listed hurdles success at the course last season and November Meeting win, the Marsh Novices’ Chase looks the race for this Skelton stable inmate come March. Protektorat may find Envoi Allen to be a whole different calibre of opponent to that which he has faced over fences so far, but he looks the leading British contender for that event at this stage.

Perhaps the biggest decision Skelton has to make between now and Cheltenham, is which race to run Roksana in. A fortuitous win in the 2019 Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival is something she struggled to back-up last season, but has since won a Grade 2 at Wetherby.

Skelton sends runners in droves up from the West Midlands to West Yorkshire, but Roksana relished the extra test of stamina she got over three miles there. That raises the distinct possibility of a tilt at the Stayers’ Hurdle where she would receive a sex allowance from the boys at Cheltenham, rather than competing against fellow mares again down in distance.

Amateur Riders no longer permitted to ride under Rules during lockdown

Britain’s hunters’ chase season will kick off on time at Ludlow a week today, but without amateur riders.

Trainers of point-to-pointers and licensed trainers will be able to make entries in the traditional way, but the runners must be ridden by conditional or professional jockeys. Amateur riders who have been competing against professionals since racing resumed in June will not be able to compete from Saturday. Leading amateurs Jack Andrews and Sam Waley-Cohen have both ridden winners against pro jockeys this week.

The decision announced by the British Horseracing Authority today means owners of pointers have a much-needed opportunity to see their horses in action during a period in which Point-to-Pointing is on hold because of Covid 19 restrictions on amateur sport.

Peter Wright, chief executive of the Point-to-Point Authority, said: “The BHA has confirmed that hunter chasing will start as programmed. However, in the present circumstances, from Saturday amateur jockeys will no longer be allowed to ride in any race under Rules. The latter is of course very disappointing, but we need to focus on the positive.

PPA CEO Peter Wright

“This will allow yards to remain open and provide runners in the immediate future, which in turn provides employment for hundreds of grooms, many of whom are also our riders. This is not a permanent change.

“Hopefully the general situation will improve in the coming weeks, and this temporary decision can be reversed relatively quickly.”

Warwickshire trainer Tom Ellis said of the green light for hunter chasing: “That’s great news, and it gives us a chance to qualify horses for races like the Foxhunter Chase, but we are going to have to do some talking about riding plans. I’ll chat with Gina  and Jack, although I suppose we could ask Bridget and Harry to ride for us. Alternatively, Jack could turn conditional for a period of time.

“We’ve got eight or nine horses that could run in hunters’ chases.”

Yorkshire-based trainer/rider Jack Teal said: “It’s good news, although I would rather be riding in hunter chases myself. However, with things the way they are at the moment we’ll have to accept it. I’ll have to talk to my owners to see how they feel about the news.”

Bury St Edmunds trainer Andrew Pennock said: “We don’t normally run horses in hunter chases at this time of year, but I have four or five that could be possible runners now we’ve got the go ahead. I am concerned that this will mean owners have to pay a professional jockeys’ riding fee, and I do hope they consider divisions of hunter chases because I expect huge entries.”

Ellis urged trainers to show common sense when making entries. He said: “I hope people will be sensible when making entries, and not run horses with no chance just to get a run.”

BHA STATEMENT:

A statement from the BHA released yesterday at 2pm included the following information.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has today confirmed a number of changes to the upcoming race programme, driven in part by the rise in COVID-19 infections across the UK and the ongoing government restrictions to try and contain the spread of the virus.

These decisions have been taken by the racing industry’s COVID-19 group which includes representatives from racecourses and horsemen and which keeps COVID protocols under constant review to determine how racing can continue to strengthen its approach.

Amateur riders

Amateur riders will not be permitted to take part in races under the Rules from this Saturday, 16 January, onwards. This is in line with government restrictions around the definition of elite sport and the associated suspension of grassroots sport. Existing races will have their conditions changed to allow for professional riders only until further notice.

Hunter chases

Hunter chases will continue to be programmed but, in line with the restrictions outlined above will be open to professional riders only. This includes conditional riders. The base weights for these races will be reduced in line with other professional races and the associated race conditions will be updated accordingly.

The challenges of getting horses and riders qualified for the Foxhunters are rising on the other side of the Irish Sea too, with today’s announcement from the INHSC that Point-to-Point racing in Ireland will  be suspended for the time being. HRI stages a full programme of Hunter Chases even so. Amateur riders have not, as yet, been excluded from riding under Rules.

HARKAWAY CLUB – IMPORTANT INFORMATION – PLEASE READ

Disappointment for Charing, but the Harkaway point-to-point on Monday, December 28 is set to go ahead as planned.

The cancellation of the point to point at Charing at such short notice is a bitter blow for our sport, especially after all the hard work to ensure the course was in great condition and it was safe. We would like to pay tribute to Sally Bowman and her team, as well As Nicky Featherstone, the Area Secretary, who have worked so hard to get it on firstly in November and then at this later date. Really sad. However, we have to remember we are not operating in a vacuum, and we need to react, and be seen to react, to circumstances as they change if we are to keep our sport going.

However, whilst the government position makes racing in Tier 4 areas impossible, there is no reason at present that point to pointing elsewhere in England cannot go on. Until further notice, we will stick to the system we have in place regarding the Tiers, except that horses and people from Tier 4 may not attend meetings. This will be reviewed over the coming weeks as the overall situation becomes clearer, recognising that the government has already stated that it will review their directives on 30 December.

To that end the Harkaway point-to-point at Chaddesley Corbett (Dec 28), being in a Tier 2 area, is planned to go ahead as previously stated with two zones including limited paying spectators, with everyone needing to have pre-registered. It is absolutely vital that this meeting runs without any problems. If you are attending, please ensure that you read the code of conduct linked to your tickets, self-police those who you are with, and follow any direction provided before or on the day. Most of it is based on wearing masks all the time away from your vehicle and keeping socially distanced, so this should come as no surprise.

To remind you again of the Tier System:

• Tier 1. May run a point to point with paying spectators if agreed by Local Authority. Those living in Tier 1 and 2 may attend in any capacity but latter should not stop en-route. Only Trainers and Jockeys may attend from Tier 3 areas. No-one, including horses, in Tier 4 may attend.
• Tier 2. May run a point to point with paying spectators if agreed by Local Authority. Those living in Tier 1 and 2 may attend in any capacity. Only Trainers and Jockeys may attend from Tier 3 areas. No-one, including horses, in Tier 4 may attend.
• Tier 3. May run a point to point but only have a green zone (ie no owners or spectators and all those attending should have a job to do). Only Trainers and Jockeys may attend from Tier 1, 2 and 3 areas, and may not stop en-route. No-one, including horses, in Tier 4 may attend.
• Tier 4. May not run a meeting.

Whilst this is the point to point position as a sport, and must not be broken, it is for you to take personal responsibility for interpreting more stringent government directives whether at UK, national or local levels. We all know that this is an exceptionally fluid situation, and we all need to be able and willing to react accordingly. Please keep checking this site for further updates.