It may sound odd, but at the beginning of each weekend most point-to-point riders think about the end. Not the end of the weekend, but the end of the race and the all-important finishing position.
After all, while for some the thrill is simply in the taking part, for many it is the prospect of entering the winner’s enclosure and embracing the silverware that is all-encompassing.
The margin of victory in a horse race is often narrow, but the outcome still depends on a multitude of factors. A good start is a crucial element. Although some horses like or need to be ridden patiently, any ground given away as the flag falls has to be made up at some stage of the race.
The rules and regulations that govern point-to-point racing broadly mirror those of National Hunt racing, although our sport has yet to implement the changes to race start procedures introduced into the professional sphere in October 2014. These new rules which, among other things, place emphasis on always attempting to start races from the track, and walking or jig-jogging to the starting tape, have seen fewer erroneous starts and have been deemed by many professionals as a much fairer protocol.
Larkhill leads change
It was refreshing, therefore, when I was contacted recently by one of the Larkhill stewards seeking my views on the starting procedures they employ.
Larkhill has for some time been one of the premier pointing tracks in the country, attracting quality runners from far and wide. Despite being a course that lends itself to horses ridden patiently, the start is as important there as any other course. After some consultation it was decided that 17 January’s Royal Artillery meeting would adopt the National Hunt race start procedure of leaving the holding pen, circling once on the track and then approaching the start.
The change worked well, giving no excuses for being “left behind”. One can only applaud Larkhill’s proactive thinking and willingness to adapt.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 29 January, 2015