And they're off... blow to Cork racing as all point to point meets postponed

Events had continued behind closed doors until last weekend
And they're off... blow to Cork racing as all point to point meets postponed

All off at the start of the maiden race for 5-Y-O & upwards mares at the South Union Point to Point races in Kinsale last month. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE point-to-point industry received a major blow when it was announced by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board that the sport was being suspended with immediate effect following updated Government guidance.

This came about when clarification was received on Wednesday from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine that point-to-point racing would not be included in the category of professional and elite sports permitted to continue behind closed doors.

The hope is the sport will recommence when it’s considered safe to do so. However, the increasing number of hospitalisations due to Covid-19 suggests that the national situation is still at a crisis point. 

It will be a couple of weeks at the very least, possibly longer, before point-to-points will be permitted to resume.

While point-to-pointing of course pales into insignificance in the wider frame of things, the suspension of the sport presents many difficulties. 

Jane Hurley, Healy Racing, on duty at the South Union Point to Point in Kinsale. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Jane Hurley, Healy Racing, on duty at the South Union Point to Point in Kinsale. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Will point-to-point venues, due to their landowners' individual farming practices, be available to the staging hunts when it’s deemed safe to resume? 

What will handlers do with horses that are fit to run at present? Do they keep going with them in the hope of a swift resumption or do they give them a break?

These are some of the conundrums that various industry participants will be trying to work out over the coming days.

Paul Murtagh, registrar of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee, said: ”On behalf of the stewards of the INHSC, we note the clarification received today from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine that point-to-points should not take place until further notice, recognising the difficult situation the country finds itself in presently.

“We will now begin to investigate the options available to us around the fixture list and race programming for when we are permitted to recommence. We will continue to liaise closely with HRI (Horse Racing Ireland) on this matter and will remain racing-ready to run point-to-points once we get the green light.“ 

Jockey Maxine O'Sullivan and her father Eugene O'Sullivan, trainer, with New Money, in December. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Jockey Maxine O'Sullivan and her father Eugene O'Sullivan, trainer, with New Money, in December. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Point-to-points were halted in mid-March last year due to Covid-19 and the remainder of the campaign was abandoned a few weeks later. The sport recommenced this season on September 19 at Ballingarry in north Tipperary and all meetings during the successful autumn term were staged behind closed doors.

All industry participants obeyed the rigorous closed doors protocols and the Duhallow Foxhounds meeting at Dromahane on December 20 was the final autumn fixture. It was expected that the Lisgoold meeting at Ballindenisk would be the initial 2021 fixture, but the event was ultimately abandoned due to the recent inclement weather conditions. 

Last Sunday’s planned Aghabullogue fixture was likewise abandoned, but due to ‘operational reasons’. The Shillelagh & District Foxhounds meeting was postponed until this coming Saturday, but Wednesday’s announcement of course means that now won’t be happening.

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