British point-to-pointing is set to stage 179 meetings at 101 locations around the United Kingdom in the coming season, when six flat races and two new venues will be introduced to the mix.
The release of the 2017/18 fixture list confirms the earliest commencement the sport in Britain has known, with a meeting at Ottery St Mary (subject to conditions) – replacing one planned at recently-closed Black Forest Lodge – in the Devon & Cornwall region due to open the season on Sunday, November 19. It is followed a week later by the Point-to-Point Owners’ & Riders’ Club fixture at Barbury Castle in Wiltshire, while a meeting at Cottenham in Cambridgeshire – which has been a curtain raiser in recent seasons – is scheduled for the first Sunday in December.
A point-to-point flat race, designed as another opportunity to give young horses racecourse experience, was staged for the first time in the UK last season at the British & Irish Racing Club meeting at Barbury Castle. Split into two divisions on the day, it was deemed successful enough to allow an expanded programme of six such races spread around Britain for the new season. Each one will be run over two miles, be limited to four-, five- and six-year-old horses and to amateur riders who have partnered more than five winners, or hold Category A or B licences. Horses can win a maximum of one such race.
Barbury Castle will again stage a point-to-point flat race (January 20), and will be followed by Great Trethew (Cornwall, February 25), Alnwick (Northumberland, March 11), Hereford Racecourse (April 14), Bitterley (Shropshire, April 28) and Garthorpe (Leicestershire, April 29).
A new venue at Edgcote in Northamptonshire replaces one at Whitfield and will stage a trio of meetings – April 8, 28, and May 20 – while, following the closure of Upper Sapey, Knightwick in Worcestershire will host racing on April 29.
The closure of Upton-upon-Severn earlier this year means Maisemore Park in Gloucestershire has gained an additional fixture and will race on March 25 and May 7, while the point-to-point courses at Sedgefield Racecourse and Revesby Park in Lincolnshire – introduced to the fixture list last season (Revesby Park after a 40-year gap) – are back for more. The season concludes at Umberleigh in North Devon on June 16.
“Point-to-Pointing in Britain remains an absorbing rural sport and an integral part of racing under Rules. The standard of riding, training and course maintenance has never been higher. Exciting young horses and riders emerge every season, while seasoned pointers and former handicap hurdlers and chasers – including past Festival winners – provide marvellous sport every weekend from November to mid-June,” said Clare Hazell, Chief Executive of the Point-to-Point Authority.