The sport of point-to-pointing entered its own “brave new world” this season, when, for the first time ever, the UK mainland season began in December. Both Tweseldown Racing Club and the Cambridge Harrier Hunt Club seized the challenge to move their fixtures into December, where they were joined by three new club meetings in Devon and Cornwall.

As well as the December fixtures, a new meeting, organised by the Yorkshire Area Hunt Club, will take place at Charm Park on 28 April. Hunts on the move this year are the Tetcott, which will race at Vauterhill (13 May) and the Hursley Hambledon moves to Hackwood Park (7 May).

Four-year-olds

Four-year-olds will get more opportunities to line up in points this year. Simon Claisse explains: “By giving those with precocious four-year-olds the option to run in 2½-mile maidens, pointing has embraced the scientific evidence that supports starting certain types of horse over obstacles earlier in their development and, in so doing, reduce the risk of encountering injury problems later in their careers.

“Taking things one step at a time, winning four-year-olds can now progress to run in other races over longer trips, but given the weight allowances four-year-olds receive in the spring, particularly mares, there is no great expectation that we’ll see a rash of youngsters between the flags in December.”

Rules and regulations

A number of new and revised rules and instructions will impact and assist organisers and racegoers alike. While most meetings do their utmost, additional guidance on inspection protocol and communication should help prevent the repeat of situations where connections and the public have felt let down by the lack or inconsistency of information.

Similarly, confirmation that declaration times must be rescheduled accordingly if race times are put back on the day of racing removes another area of uncertainty.

Other significant changes include:

  • Linked with December start to the season, the definition of a “novice rider” has been updated to reflect the total number of winners ridden “as at 1 December 2006”.
  • Regulation 101 makes provision for declaration fees in lieu or in addition to the usual entry fee.
  • Regulation 114 allows meeting stewards to fine a rider who, once declared to ride a horse refuses to do so, unless they believe this occurred due to acceptable circumstances.
  • Sub-regulation 34 (v): the penalty value for winning a non-amateur steeplechase under Rules in the current and two preceding seasons has been increased from £17,000 to £20,000.
  • The inclusion of Instruction H3 from the Rules “that when any horse runs in a race with earplugs of any type, such plugs may not be removed during the course of the race”.

Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s point-to-point special, on sale now, which includes features on veteran jockeys, top horses Cape Stormer and Latzod’alm, reports from the opening December meetings, 12 pointers to follow and H&H’s tips on which courses have the best food, viewing and facilities, plus tips for the first-time spectator.