British point-to-pointing is on a mission to start the 2020/21 season and provide racing opportunities despite the spectre of Covid-19.
Determined to provide owners with a chance to run horses following the curtailment in March of the 2019/20 season, six early meetings, starting with the East Devon fixture at Bishops Court near Ottery St Mary on Saturday, October 24, are preparing to stage racing under a number of scenarios, including behind closed doors or with pared-down facilities. The government’s position on Covid-19 protocols could dictate the make-up of a fixture, but Peter Wright, chief executive of the Point-to-Point Authority, is optimistic that one way or another owners and trainers whose horses are ready to run will be given a chance to compete.
His aims were boosted by a recent survey of owners and trainers which showed a clear majority in favour of an early start and a willingness to ready horses of all types for an earlier-than-normal commencement to the season.
Wright said: “There are three areas or issues which are going to influence the way in which point-to-point meetings can be staged at the end of October – the state of progress nationally as the government assesses restrictions relating to Covid-19, the way in which racing under Rules is able to take place and our own readiness as a sport.”
Fixture secretaries are aware that flexibility could be needed, while a local spike of Covid-19 cases could jeopardise an individual meeting, but Wright is optimistic that racing will get underway in late October. Racing behind closed doors without paying spectators would hit income, but should that be necessary race meetings would be able to pare facilities to the essentials, and with the sport’s pre-Christmas grant, support from sponsors and flexibility in the amount of prize money on offer, early meeting organisers are readying themselves for all eventualities.
Jo Wiseman, secretary of the Ledbury meeting at Maisemore Park (pictured above) in Gloucestershire that is scheduled to be held on Sunday, October 25, said: “We are determined to put on a race meeting to help those owners and trainers who were denied racing opportunities in the spring. The course is adjacent to the River Severn and we can water if needed. It also affords a good view across the course from a car. We will be closely following BHA and Government Covid guidelines to make everyone feel safe.”
Shirley Wills, secretary of the East Devon meeting, said: “Our committee decided to try an October meeting rather than go for our traditional date in early March because we have been hit by waterlogging in recent years. If our new date helps get the season going and provides racing opportunities so much the better, although we have much to discuss before we know how the day will work.”
The provisional fixture list for the 2020/21 season shows other early meetings at Kimble in Buckinghamshire on November 1, at Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire on November 8 – this replaces a mooted second early fixture at Maisemore Park – and at Charing in Kent and Dunsmore in Devon on November 15.