Pony racing, a successful and popular sport in Ireland that propels many young jockeys into the world of racing, is set to make its way to the UK.
The initiative is a joint project between the Pony Club and Racecourse Holdings Trust (RHT). The idea was a result of RHT’s review of the future of jump racing, which sought ways to encourage more British jockeys into the sport.
Currently pony racing only takes place in Britain at hunt scurries or after some point-to-point meetings and in no organised format.
“To get pony racing up and going in this country, the best chance it has is with the Pony Club where the sport will be properly run and controlled,” explains managing director of Aintree Racecourse, Charles Barnett.
In its annual conference, Pony Club chairman Mary Anderson said she was “delighted” to announce plans for the pilot scheme.
“We have always provided a clear path to British Eventing and BSJA show jumping and so on, but the same cannot be said for the world of racing,” she said. “Our past members such as Richard Dunwoody, Richard Phillips, Charlie Brooks, David Loder and Richard Johnson had to find their own way.”
Finer details are yet to be announced, but six or seven test races are to be held at various racecourses towards the end of the summer holidays and during the autumn half-term break; summer Pony Club camps making ideal practice grounds.
The RHT and Pony Club held meetings with the Jockey Club, which welcomed the plans. The races need to abide by various regulations to compete on racecourses, says Owen Byrne from the Jockey Club, but otherwise “it’s all go”.
“Over the past 10 years, there’s been a decline in the number of jump jockeys, so any initiative that aims to get people thinking seriously of becoming jockeys will be welcomed,” he says.
“We want this project to run effectively and smoothly,” concludes Charles Barnett. “If we encourage some boys to become jockeys then we’ll have achieved our aim.”