The first comprehensive series of flat races for ponies at point-to-points gets underway next weekend. The young rider pony races, of which there will be 40 fixtures, follow the successful inaugural racecourse-based series of last autumn, run by the racing industry and supported by the Pony Club.
To qualify, riders and their ponies must either have been hunting together at least four times or have attended three Pony Club rallies. Children aged nine, 10 and 11 on 1 January 2005 may compete in the 13.2hh and under races, while 12- to 15-year-olds are eligible for the 14.2hh and under races. Ponies must be between five and 20 years.
“There will be 10 max per race, so there might be balloting,” says Lucy Brack, secretary to the Point-to-Point Secretaries Association. “Preference will be given to children from the hunt that’s holding the point-to-point. If all goes well, we hope eventually to tie in with those that are run on licensed racecourses.”
Distances are four to seven furlongs. No weight limit is being imposed: whether a child is too big for a pony is up to each organiser.
The first fixture (26 February), at the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray point-to-point at Parham, West Sussex, has a full contingent for its older class and a few spaces in the younger class.
“Entrants include hunting children and local racing people’s children,” says Julie Lee, the fixture secretary. “We’re using the outside of our course, before the point-to-points, as it will be too dark later.”
Fixtures continue at point-to-points until early June. A racecourse-based summer series is in the pipeline, but rules and fixtures are still being finalised.
Rebecca Morgan, commercial executive at Cheltenham and clerk of the course at Wincanton, who, with Aintree managing director Charles Barnett, is masterminding the summer series, says: “We hope to run races at about 12 tracks from July with a final at Aintree in October. Entrants must be Pony Club members or have won or been placed the point-to-point series.
“Last year, a child could only compete once, but this year there won’t be a restriction. This will be useful for those who use it as a training ground.”