Male and female point-to-point jockeys will go head to head this season to be crowned the grand prix leading rider and win an AGA City60 cooker.
In a new initiative by the long-standing sponsor every jockey who competes in a meeting with an AGA-sponsored race will be allocated a joker card. Points will be awarded to the first three riders in every race on the card.
Reigning female champion Gina Ellis (nee Andrews) agreed that the chance to battle with the boys adds an exciting new dimension to the season. An AGA would be ideal for the new house she moved into with husband Tom earlier in 2015.
“I’m very excited about the new season and I’m aiming to win the [women’s] title for the third time,” she confirmed.
But she will face stiff competition. Four-time male champion Will Biddick rode 68 winners last season, compared to Gina’s 29.
Jockeys may play their joker at two separate fixtures and will earn double points in all races that they ride in at meetings with an AGA-sponsored race. The winner earns 10 points, while the runner-up receives six and third place is worth four. There are 20 AGA grand prix fixtures on the card for the 2015/16 season.
“This is our sixth year of sponsorship and we thought we’d pitch the boys against the girls,” said AGA commercial manager David Simpson.
The AGA will be presented, in a choice of lemon or pink, following the AGA ladies open point-to-point final at Stratford racecourse on Friday 20 May 2016.
As in 2015, Subaru’s restricted champion will also be crowned at Stratford. This time, however, the owner of the overall winning horse will win a 12-month lease of a new Subaru Forester.
The car manufacturer has doubled its investment in sponsorship and increased national qualifiers for its restricted series to 50 meetings.
Only horses who have not won a race — with the exception of maiden or hunt members’ race winners — are eligible for the restricted series.
“The scale of the prize should add to the competitive edge that so many point-to-points enjoy,” said managing director Paul Tunnicliffe. “We’re delighted to grow our involvement in the sport.”
• More good news for point-to-point enthusiasts sees the Thoroughbred Breeders Association increase its sponsorship to 12 races for its mares-only series, five of these running over a 2.5-mile distance.
Connolly’s Red Mills confirmed its intermediate series will run for the ninth year, while Dodson & Horrell’s final for its point-to-point owners and riders assocation series has relocated to Garthorpe, near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, for 2016. It takes place on 8 May.
DBS Bloodstock has added a new £5,000 race at Exeter on 21 April to its network. Aintree, worth £10,000, will take place again, on 21 April.