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Amateur riders sidelined by Covid restrictions

14-January-2021
14-January-2021 18:48
in General
by Admin

You have to applaud the BHA in their valiant attempts to keep racing going since July 1st last year through 2 subsequent lockdowns. The biosecurity plan put into effect has won fans among other sports administrators who have not enjoyed the same low level of infection. 

The latest compliance issue, however, is a cruel blow to owner-riders and amateurs whose opportunity to ride has been compromised by the suspension of Point-to-Point racing. In discussions with DCMS, it transpires that Hunter Chases fall outside the description of "elite sport" that is enabling the sport at large to continue, despite a Hunter Chase forming part of the two richest National Hunt fixtures of the season, at Cheltenham and Aintree. 

So from January 16th, amateur riders will not be able to ride under Rules until further notice. In Hunter chases, conditionals or professional riders will substitute for them. 

In a calendar denuded of Point-to-Points, Hunter Chases may well turn out to be highly competitive as a result, but I won't be alone in thinking this is a backward step for a sport whose leading proponents - trainers and riders - have, so often, risen through the amateur ranks to graduate to professional status. If Spurs can play Marine FC - part-time footballers - then our amateurs have a right to feel hard done by. 

And as for the debate about which race to omit from the Festival during last summer, if we knew what we know now, one might have selected a different stage for the Foxhunter, in the sure knowledge it is likely to be ridden by the same riders as the Gold Cup 40 minutes earlier. 

Not so (yet) in Ireland, where deespite a cessation of Pointing with effect from today, amateurs may still ride under Rules. With only three Hunter Chases before entry stage for Cheltenham however, an adaptation to the entry conditions may be required to win a full complement of Irish to the race.

It seems we have a mountain to climb to keep the sport of Pointing going presently.

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