It is invariably fascinating to attend Brightwells’ sales of thoroughbreds at Cheltenham, where young point-to-pointers are de rigueur.
Sadly for a patriotic Briton like myself, the largest number and those who gain the biggest prices are shipped in after making their mark in Irish point-to-points, quite often having run (and won) in the previous month, but occasionally within a week.
The consignors are geniuses who specialise in this niche area of the horseworld.
At last week’s sale, a four-year-old Irish pointer, Alisier D’Irlande, who had won 19 days earlier and was prepared by Willie Codd, topped prices when selling for £300,000.
Codd’s brother Jamie is an outstanding amateur rider who gets the key job on raceday, so the two men work together. They are among a small group of Irishmen who have mastered this “sapling to young oak tree” transition with pointers.
I delight in seeing British pointers that sell for a good price and am full of admiration for Tom Lacey’s operation in Oxfordshire — last week he had an “OK” sale, trading two and taking two home.
Yet it would be a mistake for the uninitiated to think the British can grab some of these lucrative deals by moving our sport closer to the Irish model.
There is far more to it — call it specialist knowledge, or maybe just wheels within wheels — than merely winning a race with a young horse. And bear in mind, the horse who made £300,000 cost €57,000 [£34,000] as an unbroken three-year-old, so his vendors took quite a gamble.
Similarly, a two-year-old who sold for 1,150,000gns two weeks ago — he was consigned by Tipperary’s Willie Browne — cost $240,000 [£143,000] as a yearling. You can turn buttons into a big sum, but it is very rare.
A couple of years ago, there was a call for an end-of-season bumper race to be held at a British point-to-point venue, the idea being to advertise the qualities of young pointers. As a novelty it had some appeal, but it was easy to forget that, while the first two home in the contest may have risen in value, almost every horse behind would have been devalued.
On a similar note, I chatted to an Irishman at Cheltenham, who said his young pointer has run in three schooling races and was still to tackle its first point-to-point.
“It’s ironic,” he admitted, “that I’ll pay more to the racecourses for entering those schooling races than I will to the hunt who stages the point-to-point.”
But it will be the point-to-point victory that will be the advertising hoarding for his horse when it goes to the ring.
While the Irish can claim bragging rights when it comes to trading horses, we British are officially the best when it comes to riding in point-to-points — at least until 23 May.
On that date, the second International Point-to-Point — run by the Louth Hunt and Tattersalls Ireland — takes place and includes a showdown involving teams from both sides of the Irish Sea.
Past reputations count for nothing and the sides are picked from riders who have gained most wins and places this season.
Reigning women’s champion and H&H columnist Jacqueline Coward is again in the UK line-up alongside Gina Andrews, but this time they are joined by Bridget Andrews and Bryony Frost. Will Biddick has a new set of male colleagues, namely Robbie Henderson, Tom Weston and Ben Rivett.
Derek O’Connor was injured and missed last season’s inaugural match, but having their talisman back will be a boost for the Irish, who have added reason to win this time. Good luck to both teams.
The Irish are envious of the standards at our point-to-point courses and it is said they would love to play a return match in Britain. Talks with the organisers in Ireland have been ongoing in a bid to make this possible. It could happen in the next two seasons, with Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire a likely venue.