All you need to know about Point-to-Point horse racing:
Point-to-point action, live at Whittington Racecourse. Photo by Extraordinary, CC BY-SA 3.0
Point-to-point horse racing is one of those things that most people don’t even question when they head into a bookmakers. That’s because most people prefer to watch horse races hosted at the major flat or National Hunt racecourses involving professional jockeys. The key difference between National Hunt racing and point-to-point racing is that they are hosted solely for amateur jockeys. There are local point-to-point racecourses that operate races set within the parameters of the Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association and the Point-to-Point Secretary’s Association.
The Jockey Club also oversees all point-to-point race meetings hosted across the UK, just like in professional horse racing. Pointing, as point-to-point racing is also known in amateur racing circles, has a proud heritage. The first instances of point-to-point meetings were back in the 1800s. The concept of point-to-point came about as huntsmen would attempt to race against each other, using church steeples as start and finish marks. Latterly, these church steeples would be replaced by physical points.
Point-to-point racing and hunting still go hand in hand to this very day. Hunting is quite easy to get into, too. Pointing is reserved exclusively for horses that are approved to hunt locally. Meanwhile point-to-point jockeys also have to be official members of a local hunt. However, those wanting to become professional horse racing jockeys should see point-to-point as an excellent starting point. You can find some point-to-point racetracks that host flat racing designed solely for younger pony jockeys. Nevertheless, both the jockey and the pony have to prove their efficiency in the hunting arena before being approved to race.
If you’re looking for an entry-level route into watching live horse racing, point-to-point meetings offer entertainment for every generation. Most point-to-point racecourses will have food stalls, licensed bars and even dedicated betting desks to allow people to have a light-hearted flutter. Many of the biggest Point-to-Point race meetings are available to wager on, with regularly updated point-to-point markets from the leading online bookies.
If you are also wondering when the point-to-point racing ‘season’ is across the UK, you’ll find that it lasts for several months. It starts in the winter in November through to the beginning of the summer in early June as the flat racing season starts to kick off. Typically, a point-to-point race will be run over three miles, featuring around 18 obstacles or fences along the way. Nevertheless, you can find some longer point-to-point races that can last for up to four miles, which resemble something like the English or Scottish Grand National!
Many point-to-point races have substantial obstacles, like the ones above Photo by J.harwood, CC BY 2.0
Most point-to-point race meetings will have at least six races on their daily card. There are several different race types you will encounter on a point-to-point race card too. Let’s take a look at the kind of races you’ll watch at a point-to-point racecourse:
All horses entered into an intermediate point-to-point race cannot have won a flat race anywhere under the jurisdiction of The Jockey Club. Those horses that have already won a National Hunt flat race will however be permitted.
Maiden point-to-point races are similar to professional maiden horse races in that only horses that are yet to win a race can enter. It’s a great opportunity to watch developing jockeys and up-and-coming horses in a point-to-point maiden.
- Open races
An open point-to-point race permits all point-to-point horses to enter. There are often men’s, ladies and mixed open races, with the latter allowing jockeys of both sexes to race against each other.
- Confined races
A confined point-to-point race is reserved solely for horses that have recently qualified with a local hunt or a hunt that is promoting the daily point-to-point meeting.
- Hunters’ chase
This type of race is a weight-for-age steeplechase. Only horses and jockeys to have been officially awarded their Hunter Certificate can enter.
- Hunt Members races
Last but by no means least, Hunt Members races are hosted solely for horses that are fully qualified to ride with a local hunt, or the hunt that is promoting the day’s point-to-point meeting.