A chance to catch last week's Racing Post point-to-point focus column which was published on Friday, February 12.
Spare a thought for point-to-pointing in Wales, where no race meeting has been held since December 8, 2019, writes Carl Evans.
Heavy rain washed out Welsh fixtures between that date and the early close of the season in March, and no meetings have been held in Wales during the current disjointed programme. A fixture at Pyle near Bridgend is slated for April 3, but Liz Egerton, secretary of the South Wales PtP Association, says: “The Welsh government is so tough on the rules. We went into lockdown before England and will come out later. We’re still planning to stage three fixtures, but the venues are close to towns which could count against us. Our meetings are run by hunts as a tradition – they don’t get the crowds or sponsorship enjoyed by some English meetings, and with hunts suffering the long term is worrying.”
Welsh point-to-pointing has been a breeding ground for talent, from national senior champions John Llewellyn, Pip Jones, Jamie Jukes and James Tudor to a recent spate of novice stars-turned-jockeys such as Richard Patrick, Sean and James Bowen, Connor Brace, Jack Tudor and Lorcan Williams.
Egerton says racing in West Wales, where four meetings remain on the schedule, offers further light in the tunnel, but changes at yards run by Brad Gibbs (moved to Hertfordshire) and David Brace (predominantly racing under rules) have put a dent in the horse population. She says: “There are a number of small yards with one to three horses out there, and we want to restart for their sake.”
Fewer Easter fixtures
With race-meeting organisers taking differing views on the viability of staging fixtures behind closed doors, and the need to tailor meetings to reflect the number of horses, a new fixture list has been drawn up.
Fixtures have been planned – but are not guaranteed – for a restart the weekend before the Cheltenham Festival, and if that happens and amateurs can ride in the career-defining St James’s Place Open Hunters Chase it would be a double cause for celebration and relief. Nothing is certain, but plans had to be made.
Changes include a reduced number of meetings over the Easter weekend – 19 were rostered, now 11 remain – although the season’s finale in Devon on June 12 is unchanged.
No way or Highway
Hold bets on Highway Jewel for the St James’s Place Open Hunters’ Chase at the Festival.
The seven-year-old mare entered contention when beating Hazel Hill in a point-to-point in December before finishing second to Latenightpass in a Warwick hunter chase. Third-placed The Worlds End is rated 149 over fences and won a grade one hurdle 14 months ago.
Highway Jewel (Bradley Gibbs)
However, Adrian Simpson, who heads a syndicate which owns the mare, is unhappy the word Foxhunter has been replaced by Open in the race title. He says: “We are contemplating not running her [at Cheltenham] due to the name change. The Foxhunter Chase has a richer history than many at the Festival, and yet they’ve changed that link.”
Simpson, hunting liaison officer for the Countryside Alliance in Wales, says: “If it was down to me she wouldn’t run, because I’m so cross about the name change. That would be harsh on Bradley [Gibbs, the mare’s trainer], so I’m taking a view, but I would love to know who changed the name and why.”
Goodbye for now
This weekly look at point-to-pointing is taking a pause until the season restarts.