The Pony Club has announced further details of its nationwide pony racing series, which will take place on licensed racecourses between August and October this year.
The idea was first aired at this year’s Pony Club AGM and has generated phenomenal interest. Aimed at encouraging 11-16-year-olds to become national hunt jockeys, the series is a result of collaboration with the jump racing industry.
Jockeys and trainers have given their full support.
The series will kick off on Sunday, 22 August at Newton Abbot, followed by Huntingdon (30 August), Stratford (4 September), Plumpton (19 September), Market Rasen (25 September), Kelso (3 October) and Bangor (9 October), culminating in a final on Sunday, 24 October at Wincanton.
There will be two races on each day – four furlongs for 13.2hh and under and six furlongs for 14.2hh and under. Ponies and riders must be “active members” of the Pony Club to compete, and must have participated in at least three working rallies since 1 July 2003 (one of these during 2004).
The racing aims to be as close to “real life” as possible, so there are weight limits — riders must weigh no more than 8st 7lb for 13.2hh ponies or 9st 4lb for 14.2hh — and silks will be provided.
As is usual with Pony Club competitions, there are strict rules on tack and protective equipment; for instance, whips and spurs are not allowed.
There will be an opportunity for riders to practise at the racecourses on the previous day or morning of the event, including a course-walk, and many branches are already making plans to include training sessions on their summer schedules.
Former Pony Club member and top jockey Richard Johnson is highly enthusiastic about the series: “It’s a great idea and I wish it had happened when I was younger. It will give kids a great opportunity to have a go at racing and hopefully the buzz will encourage some to carry on riding and become jump jockeys.”