Britain’s hunters’ chase season will kick off on time at Ludlow a week tomorrow, 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.
“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 [his wife] and Jack [Andrews, brother-in-law], although I suppose we could ask Bridget and Harry [Skelton] 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.”
A statement from the BHA released today 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 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 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.