Point to Point Horse Racing
Similar in many ways to hunt races, point to point racing is a form of amateur horseracing. It occurs mainly in the various countries of the United Kingdom and is usually strictly limited to thoroughbred horses. In Ireland, point to point races are used as a way to introduce young horses to the sport while in England and Wales, horses used in point to point races are often at the end of their careers. In the Irish system, young stars are spotted early and often this will result in the horse selling for more than would normally be the case.
Point to point racing has its origins in steeplechase – much the same as hunt racing does. Steeplechase racing originated in County Cork in 1752 when a Mr Black challenged his neighbour, Mr O’Callaghan, to a race cross country from Buttervant church to Doneraile church. The race took place over four and half miles of country terrain which included stonewalls, ditches and hedges and the sight of the steeple (thus steeple chasing) served as a guide for the race. The idea caught on and before long, steeple chase became a national sport. The formal version of this sport gravitated towards a man-made oval track with fences and this is what we know today as hunt racing. Point to point is the amateur version and can be run on a circular course or on a straight one.
It is interesting to note that horses entered into point to point races must have a certificate from a Master of Foxhounds which states that they have hunted for at least four days during fox hunting season. The jockey also has to get a certificate from the hunt secretary before he is allowed to compete in the race. Most point-to-point races are run over a distance of three miles but this distance can be longer in certain major events. Maiden races for horses between four and seven years of age can be run over two miles and four furlongs. The courses have to have at least two fences with ditches and they must have a minimum number of fences. The average fence is 4 ft 6 inches high.