Owners and trainers will have a voice in the type of races to be staged if plans for an October resumption of point-to-pointing come to fruition.
Another step closer to that earlier start date will come at a Point-to-Point Authority (PPA) Board meeting next month as the sport attempts to stage racing following the early closure of the 2019/20 season due to Coronavirus/Covid-19.
In the PPA’s e-newsletter for June chief executive Peter Wright confirmed plans “for an early start to the season, Covid willing,” subject to a final decision “by the PPA Board in mid to late July”. He said the government’s approach would have a bearing.
Should the Board’s confirmation come by the end of the third week of July it would leave a clear 13 to 14-week period in which to ready horses ahead of proposed meetings at Bishops Court near Ottery St Mary in Devon on Saturday, October 24 and Maisemore Park near Gloucester on Sunday, October 25.
Wright also announced that a survey will be sent to owners and trainers early next month to assess their interest in an earlier commencement – the sport has started three weeks later around November 18 for the past three seasons – and to gain an indication of the type of races they would like to see. This will be one of the key elements in informing Board decisions.
It is thought unlikely the Board would support an early start if it involved racing behind closed doors, although it is possible that such an eventuality could develop as meetings are about to take place. The survey is expected to ask if owners would agree to their horses running if that happens, and whether some races should go ahead without prize money to get racing underway.
Trainers in South Wales were among the greatest sufferers last season when all four meetings scheduled to take place before mid-March were called off due to waterlogging and the sport was closed down as drier weather developed. Tom Faulkner who trains near Chepstow, says: “I had 18 horses to run and had only managed to run two [at a meeting in Gloucestershire]. The early closure hit us badly. I’ve had to sell 10 horses privately since, mainly older horses, but I am very keen on an earlier start in order to run some four- and five-year-olds.”
Gloucestershire-based Claire Hardwick, says: “I like to give horses 12 to 14 weeks of preparation for racing, so would need to be thinking of getting horses in around the middle to end of July. I have two older horses I need to get out there asap, but it will all come down to the owners and what they choose to do.”
Northamptonshire’s Stuart Morris says he does not anticipate getting his string ready to run before Christmas, but says: “I’m not against the idea of an earlier start in the circumstances and if an owner wants me to get a horse ready to run in Devon I will happily do so. We don’t have any young horses we want to run early to sell, and normally start just after Christmas because the Midlands meetings around us take place in the spring at venues like Garthorpe and Dingley. Owners like going to local tracks to enjoy the day with friends.”
David Phelan who trains in Kent says: “I’m definitely in favour of starting early. I’ve spoken to my owners and they are all in favour. An earlier start would suit some of my younger horses because it would mean we can give them longer gaps between races during the season.
“Most horses will have been out at grass for April, May and June and will be ready to come back in during July whatever happens. They have had a longer break this time and some of mine are now very fat.”