Point to point (steeplechase)
A point to point is a form of amateur horseracing over fences for hunting horses. In Ireland many of the horses will appear in these races before they compete in National Hunt races either in Ireland or in the . In contrast in England and Wales horses running in point to points are more likely to be at the end of their national hunt careers. The Irish point to point is used as a nursery for future young stars: a horse that wins its debut point to point in Ireland will often sell for a lot of money.
Horses running in Point to Points must be thoroughbreds, save in the case of hunt members races and certain other club members races (e.g. Pegasus club members race). The horses have to obtain a certificate from a Master of Foxhounds stating that they have hunted for at least 4 days in the season before racing starts in January. (The 2007 season started in December 2006.) In addition the jockey must obtain a certificate from the hunt secretary.
The first Steeplechase ever was run locally between Buttevant and Doneraile, County Cork, over 250 years ago. Chasing from 'steeple to steeple' or point-to-point began in 1752 when Mr. Blake challenged his neighbour Mr. O'Callaghan, to race across country from Buttevant church to Doneraile church some four and a half miles distance and so jump stone walls, ditches and hedges as these presented themselves. By keeping the steeple of the church in sight (steeplechasing) both riders could see their finishing point.
In recent years, pony racing has been staged at British meetings in an attempt to encourage more young riders into point to pointing and national hunt racing.
Description and regulations
Point to point regulations in the UK and Ireland require all races to be run over a minimum of 3 miles, but there are exceptions. Certain important races are run over longer distances, e.g. the Lady Dudley Cup (3 miles 2 furlongs) and the Heythrop men's open (4 miles). Maiden races for young horses (aged 4 to 7) can be run over 2 miles 4 furlongs.
Most point-to-point courses are on ordinary farm land, although some courses are placed on the inside of professional courses such as Bangor-on-Dee racecourse or Hexham.
A three mile race is almost invariably 2 circuits of a typical point to point course although there are one or two exceptions (e.g. Larkhill in Wiltshire). Every course must have a minimum number of 18 fences and at least 2 fences must have ditches. This however can be reduced if certain fences are unfit or unsafe to be jumped (eg due to ground conditions or a fallen horse being in the way).
The fences are made of birch and are approx 4 foot 6 inches high.
Point to point regulations in Britain prevent licence holders training under rules from training pointers. However due to loopholes in this rule it has little effect.
Horses that are eligible to run in points are also eligible to run in hunter chases, i.e. races run under rules over regulation fences open only to horses with a current hunter certificate.
- Weatherbys Point-to-Point: the Official Home of Point-to-Pointing on the Net - UK site with all the news, entries & results