• Posted: Thursday, 20th June 2019
  • Author: Carl Evans
  • Photo: Carl Evans

A chance to catch the last point-to-point focus of the season, that appeared in the Racing Post on Friday, June 14.

Robert Waley-Cohen has owned Lady Dudley Cup and Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, and experienced roles as diverse as chairman of Cheltenham racecourse and the Point-to-Point Authority, writes Carl Evans. He understands licensed Jump racing and pointing.

At last week's Point-to-Point Owners' & Riders' Association AGM he raised a point from the floor, describing the £300,000 which UK point-to-pointing is given by the Levy Board (up from £250,000 last year) as "a piddling sum".

Bearing in mind the Levy Board's website statement on the sport opens with, 'Point-to-pointing makes a significant contribution to National Hunt racing' you have to wonder why pointing receives such an insignificant 0.3 per cent of the £94.3m expenditure budget for 2019. Waley-Cohen spelt out 'the contribution' by referring to pointing's grounding for young jockeys, horses and trainers, and the way in which it takes in older horses who have reached a dead end in Jump racing. Without pointing, where would those horses go? With a reduced market in which to clear unwanted horses, would their owners go, too?

Levy Board money is derived from bookmakers, and while they take bets on hunter chases they make not a penny out of point-to-pointing because they cannot make a book on the sport. Add in demands from other begging bowls and some would argue that £300,000 is being wasted on the point-to-point circuit, yet it is vital in helping towards course maintenance, veterinary and medical services.

The two-way traffic between pointing and racing may never have been at a higher volume or producing more tangible results, and this at a time when one of pointing's key revenue streams, the money gained from the registration of certificates which qualify a horse to run in the sport, is being squeezed by a slow drain.

Since 2000 the number of horses has halved for numerous reasons, and, ironically, Jump racing is a factor. In some races at Fontwell on Wednesday horses won £350 for finishing eighth, more than for winning many point-to-points. Jump racing is looking after its own, not putting the squeeze on pointing, and the two forms of racing are colleagues, not competition. Countless horses, owners, trainers, jockeys, officials and spectators who attend our Jump tracks began in pointing.

You will still see sleek thoroughbreds, expensive lorries and some very smart cars at point-to-points, and that is because it is invariably a great day out, unlicensed, and therefore open to all. However, the funds and participation are getting low, and worryingly in some parts of Britain. There are no longer meetings to the west of the Pennines (four venues and five fixtures gone in ten years), while in the adjacent North-West area meetings have declined from 15 to seven since 2005. When meetings disappear so do owners, trainers and horses. Such demise can spread.

Promotion and team work with racing will become more important, which brings us back to allocation of levy funds. Racing will miss pointing if it lets it fall.

Stars shine on

'It is not all gloom' was the mantra of PPA chief executive Peter Wright at the PPORA AGM.

How right, Mr Wright, for the sport remains chockful of talent, has a core audience of passionate fans, and is producing lovely horses and some top-class horsemanship.

Gina Andrews' record-smashing season has seen her raise the best season's score by a woman from 40 to 57, a testament to her skills. Her husband, Tom Ellis, has won the Foran Equine trainers' title for yards with eight or more horses, while Tim Underwood takes the equivalent for smaller yards.

Will Biddick has regained the Fuller's men's championship, his seventh such victory, one behind the record number of titles held by David Turner and Polly Gundry. His Upcott Cross win on Kernel Victor in April was his 415th, a new high by a rider in UK points. He embellished that with another victory in Punchestown's Champion Hunters' Chase on Caid Du Berlais.

Alex Edwards and Philip Rowley have been dethroned as champion rider and trainer, but their Cheltenham Foxhunter Chase win with Hazel Hill is one to treasure.

Jack Tudor is Fuller's novice men's champion, and Jess Bedi has claimed the women's equivalent award for Yorkshire.