Racecourses enthusiasm for staging hunter chasing is likely to diminish, members of the Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association (PPORA) have been told.
The PPORAs AGM held at Stratford Racecourse last week heard that courses now face a financial penalty for any race with less than eight runners. About 20% of hunter chases held so far this year fell into this category.
From 2009, courses will receive an income in relation to betting turnover on each race run. But most hunter chases do not attract big betting interest. Those in professional racing want more opportunities to run their horses, and with courses under pressure to stage more national hunt flat races, a hunter chase is the first race on the card to be threatened.
The Point-to-Point Board (PTPB) is continuing to meet racecourse groups in an attempt to preserve the programme of hunter chases, which are jump races for amateur riders run on proper racecourses.
Numerous racing stars have come to trainers Henrietta Knight and Robert Alner and jockeys Richard Johnson and Robert Thornton.
The PTPB suggested various measures to halt the decline of hunter chasing, including moving races to weekday dates to avoid clashing with point-to-points.
It also proposed scheduling more novice and maiden races in February and March, to give greater opportunities to less experienced horses, rather than expecting them to compete in open chases.
The board also said more open hunter chases could be restricted to horses eligible to run between the flags, in other words, not from a licensed yard. And in order to give owners more time to qualify for Cheltenham, there could be open hunter chases staged in January.
The hunter chase calendar will be finalised later in the year.