Northern point-to-point fans will be able to go to the races before Christmas this year.

Pointing traditionally runs from 1 January but an increasing demand for amateur steeplechasing, and harder ground at the end of the season, led to December point-to-points being introduced in the south of England two years ago.

None have yet been held in the north but Ratcheugh Racecourse in Alnwick, Northumberland, will host the first meeting on 13 December.

“The demand is there, so we’ve gone for it” said Tom Oates, of the Ratcheugh committee.

“We wanted to give people opportunities to qualify for big races like [Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at] Cheltenham early in the season.”

Fife-based owner, breeder and trainer Nick Alexander told H&H it is a “tremendous idea”.

“My only concern is there is quite a gap between meetings [the next is Sheriff Hutton on 17 January],” he said.

“It could be tricky to get horses fit, then wait a month until their next run. It would be better to have two early meets, but I think it will be a growing trend.”

There will be six races, with one for northern runners only. Entries close on 7 December.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (3 December, ’09)