Point to Point Racing - The Spectators View
Point to Point racing continues to grow in popularity throughout the UK, attracting hundreds of spectators, racing enthusiasts and families to weekend meetings over the season.
The thrill of horseracing, socialising and generally welcoming atmosphere promises to make for an entertaining and exciting experience for all who attend.
So what is Point to Point?
Quite simply, point to point racing is steeple chase racing usually run over a distance of 3 miles, with the occasional exception of some maiden races run over a shorter distance. The sport is regulated by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), and is run under the administrative body and governance of the Point to Point Authority (PPA).
The horses are ridden by amateur jockeys, many of whom excel onto a professional level. The point to point circuits have given origin to many of today’s notable jockeys including Ruby Walsh, Timmy Murphy and Paul Carberry. All horses racing must have been registered by Weatherbys, in the General Stud Book or Non-Thoroughbred Register and hold an official passport. Jockeys must also hold a Riders' Qualification Certificate as issued by the Point-to-Point Authority.
Numerous dates of origin have been proposed to mark the beginnings of the sport, but in truth no single date can be confirmed. It is thought that the sport can be traced back to at least the 18th Century when hunting men would race horses between Church steeples hence the name ‘point-to-point’.
As the sport grew it was evident that more confined and prepared courses were necessary, both for safety reasons and to ensure greater support from spectators.
The majority of point to point courses are now situated on private land and are maintained by donations derived from point to point meetings and sponsors.
The point to point season runs from November to June each year and will incorporate around 200 meetings across the country.
Here in the Midlands we are lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the finest courses and most prestigious hunts within the UK, with courses including; Brocklesby Park in Lincolnshire, Garthorpe in Leicestershire, Dingley in Northamptonshire, Clifton on Dunsmore in Warwickshire and Eyton on Severn in Shropshire.
A list of the fixtures and details for each course can be found on the Weatherbys Point to Point website (www.pointtopoint.co.uk).
Each point to point meeting is organised and held by a local hunt, of which there may be four or five for each course e.g. The Belvoir, Cottesmore, Quorn, Melton Hunt Club and Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunts all race at Garthorpe racecourse near Melton Mowbray.
The meetings usually consist of around seven races at 30 – 40 minute intervals. Races usually include a mens open, ladies open and mixed open race, along with a restricted race and a maiden race. The sport openly encourages jockeys and horses of all levels of experience to race, in a competitive and safe environment.
Each race includes a minimum number of fences and is limited in regard to the number of horses allowed to run. Maiden races usually allow no more than 18 horses to run whereas up to 20 horses may run in other races.
With minimal prize money at stake, it is refreshing to see that the participants take part for the enjoyment and love of the sport rather than for financial gain.
All meetings allow for a full day out, whether it be with family or friends and I would urge anyone who hasn’t experienced the thrill of a point to point event to attend and appreciate the sport in its entirety. Entry to the races can range from £10 to £25 per person and most courses allow trade stands, food outlets and licenced bars to ensure spectators don’t go hungry. For those feeling lucky there are always bookmakers available with whom you can place a few pounds against your favourite horse.
Photo credit: Jonathan Clarke of JPC Images.