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New initiatives are essential for continuing and broadening the appeal of any sport, both to participant and spectator.

Point-to-pointing is indebted to its sponsors for offering valuable perks to the specific series or focus where they have chosen to promote their brand. There may not be lucrative cash payments on offer from the Stobart Group for championship leaders at the end of the season, as there currently are for our professional counterparts, but lady riders have long been the envy of the gentlemen, battling it out to walk away with a new AGA cooker following the finale in May. This year, for the first time, male jockeys are allowed in on the act.

The announcement that the Point-to-Point Owners & Riders Association (PPORA) will be running a jockey of the month award also offers added incentive to riders to hone their performance. Nominations can be made through PPORA area/rider representatives and will be decided by majority vote at the start of the following month, with the winner receiving a voucher for Harley Racing funded by backers of the scheme, insurers Howden.

The combined November/December award was hotly contested with riders from Scotland to Cornwall nominated, but was justifiably awarded to Richard Smith for his efforts at Alnwick, where he rode a tidy double despite having been out of action for 11 months with a broken shoulder.

Innovation is key to ensuring we attract new blood into the sport and the kudos of becoming the Howdens PPORA Jockey of the Month will only entice more people and encourage riders to make their mark on the sport. I for one will be trying.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 14 January 2016