David Simpson: ‘Let’s engage with our riders’ *H&H VIP*

As the season draws to a close, it’s a good time for reflection, but before that, there’s the little matter of the Hunter Chase Evening to look forward to at Stratford this Friday (tomorrow, 31 May).

It’s always a popular evening — it is a favourite of mine — and the entries suggest we could be in for some fireworks on the track.

There’s a healthy entry for the final of the Skinner’s Ladies’ Open series — Skinner’s is a valuable national sponsor and it’s good to see its final well supported.

The Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association’s (PPORA) annual general meeting takes place earlier in the day. The PPORA do a fine job of promoting and serving the interests of those who participate in and enjoy point- to-pointing, and Friday presents an opportunity for members of the association to raise issues and ask questions.

It’s one of the many avenues of communication for people to express their views and it will be well attended. The Q&A session has occasionally been described as anticlimactic, but that may not be the case on Friday as there is much to discuss.

The sport certainly doesn’t need another committee and riders have a voice via the PPORA. However, I would like to see more active engagement with experienced riders before they hang up their boots.

Jockeys retire every year,and while many stay within the sport, such as by moving into the training ranks, others don’t. Their experience and knowledge is then lost.

I’ll use two riders at the opposite end of their careers as an example, as both have recently reached a notable landmark — 100 winners. Jack Andrews and Claire Hardwick have plenty of experience between them and neither is backward in coming forward.

I’d like to see someone from the top table pick up the phone and seek their views on the way forward for pointing. I’m certain both will have plenty of constructive ideas and I’m sure neither will mind me putting forward this suggestion.

An attractive proposition

There are two more potential topics for discussion on my ever-expanding list; a series of races for older, slower horses (veterans) and evening fixtures.

There is a very popular series for veteran chasers under Rules and it would be good to see a similar series for pointers. This could be an attractive proposition for a sponsor with the potential for a final, possibly at a late-season meeting.

The subject of evening fixtures crops up every season. I’ve been to the Weston and Banwell Harriers fixture at Cothelstone — which takes place on a Wednesday evening during May — and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Granted, there are challenges involved in putting on an evening fixture, but it always amazes me that more organising committees do not consider this as a serious option once spring kicks in.

Ref: Horse & Hound magazine; 30 May 2019

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