It scarcely seems six-and-a-half months since it all began in a muddy field in South Devon, but the crescendo of the 2014-15 point-to-point season took place back in the same county on Saturday at Umberleigh, North Devon.
It cannot be denied that we are in a challenging period for the sport, with rider numbers down another 4% on last season and horse numbers down 6%. When you consider that 28% fewer horses raced this term than in 2009, this paints a stark picture.
I hope the recently formed Point-to-Point Authority’s (PPA) race programming committee can help to address this decline and, following their stakeholder consultation, they have put forward recommendations.
These include: allowing 2m4f races in all categories, disallowing seven-year-olds from running in “young horse” maidens, increasing the maximum total prize-money level to £1,000, allowing winners of Flat races/National Hunt bumpers to enter at restricted rather than intermediate level, removing allowances for five-year-olds from 1 March, and confining meetings to six races on weekends or Bank Holiday weekends when there are more than 10 meetings scheduled. There is nothing alarming here, and we must consider all options to encourage people back into the sport and make it a more enticing spectacle for the paying public.
Finally, I must take this opportunity to wish a happy retirement to Robbie Henderson, Nick Williams and Ollie Greenall, who have all announced that they will not race-ride again after this season. With luck they will stay involved in the sport in some other capacity.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 18 June 2015