As we prepare to give ourselves a pre-Christmas weekend off and switch the attention from horses to turkey, it gives an opportunity to reflect on what has been a positive if unspectacular start to the season.
The number of runners has been reasonable and the racing competitive.
The unseasonably dry weather has kept some intended early season runners in their boxes, but this should not detract from the efforts of the meetings that have taken place.
Organisers have been proactive and upfront with producing honest going reports — something that can only be applauded and should be an example to other courses for the remainder of the season.
Some positives but…
Early December triggered a return to Stratford racecourse for a closed Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association [PPORA] meeting. Once again, the agenda contained some issues pertinent to the future of the sport.
Positive developments included the continuation of the Hunt Subscription Discount Scheme, the introduction of a first-time rider “schooling day” at the British Racing School, and improvements to the Point-to-Point Racing Company website (www.pointtopoint.co.uk) — notably the inclusion of horse ratings.
Not so positive issues were a further fall in the number of hunter certificates and Rider Qualification Certificates [RQCs] issued, and a struggle to attract sponsors to ensure the continuation of the young horse awards.
It will be a shame if these awards are lost because they provide a platform to acknowledge and recognise up-and-coming equine talent. Alas, such schemes require financial support and any backers forthcoming would be welcome.
Other ideas aired were the inclusion of 2½-mile non-maiden races and the reframing of restricted races to allow winners of those events to run in another under a novice pilot. The jury is out on steps to take to improve the appeal of our sport, but ideas were certainly plentiful.
This column was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (19 December, 2013 edition)