One of the items on the agenda when the Point-to-Point Race Planning Committee met last week was the increasing role played within the sport by four-year-olds.
Looking at the January to June period, participation rates have risen from 94 runners in 2015 and 120 in 2016, to a total of 125 last season. However, it is the number of individual winners that have seen the most marked rise. 20 four-year-olds won a race in 2015, 19 did so in 2016, while 34 have been successful this year. It is encouraging that almost half these young horses – 16 – scored over the three miles trip and of those, 14 won contests open to horses of all ages.
Point-to-pointing is increasingly becoming a showcase for young British racing talent, which has been reflected in the sales ring this year. Three of the winning four-year-olds realised six-figure sums at auction – Sophie Lacey's Blackbow and Sky Pirate went for £150,000 each, being sold to Willie Mullins and Jonjo O'Neill respectively, while the Philip Rowley trained Article Fifty was bought by Warren Greatrex for £115,000. Other keepers who have profited this year from the performance of their young horses include Ed Glassonbury (Pontresina and Present In Court), Francesca Nimmo (Marleen, Tangoed and The In Thing) and Ed Walker (Ticket To Ride).
With British pointing form increasingly on the radar of professional trainers in Britain and Ireland, there has never been a better time to get involved – and there are sales for horses in training and National Hunt prospects at Doncaster next Tuesday (8th August), at Ascot on Tuesday 22nd August and back at Doncaster on September 5th and 6th.
David Minton, Chair of the Race Planning Committee and a leading bloodstock agent, said earlier this week: "Point-to-pointing in Ireland is 80% business and 20% fun while in Britain, pointing has always been 80% fun and 20% business. We're trying to close the gap, while maintaining the sport's amateur status, which is really important – and these sales results show that it's working."