Early confirmation of the fixture list this week will allow strong fields for the mid-winter fixtures that include Cocklebarrow next January 24.
A total of 164 fixtures are planned for the 20-21 season, which will start at the end of October to recompense for the loss of fixtures from March - May. Six fixtures are scheduled from October 24 to November 15 stretching from Devon to the South-East before the normal start kicks off.
Peter Wright, CEO of the Point-to-Point Authority said, “There are three areas or issues which are going to influence the way in which Point-to-Point meetings can be staged at the end of October: the state of progress nationally as the government assesses restrictions relating to Covid-19, the way in which racing under Rules is able to take place and our own readiness as a sport.”
Fixture secretaries are aware that flexibility could be needed, while a local spike of Covid-19 cases could jeopardise an individual meeting, but Wright is optimistic that racing will get underway in late October. Racing behind closed doors without paying spectators would hit income, but should that be necessary race meetings would be able to pare facilities to the essentials, and with the sport’s pre-Christmas grant, support from sponsors and flexibility in the amount of prize money on offer, early meeting organisers are readying themselves for all eventualities.
But as always in Point-to-Point racing, the early start brings its own Covid-related problems. In a sports environment where spectators are currently a missing part of the jigsaw, at least one of the events - the Ledbury at Maisemore - is planned as a trial fixture behind closed doors, or with a ceiling on public attendance. By illustrating that it can operate in a sealed environment, Pointing can protect its long term viability.
That the fixture list has been announced this early, when it would normally be ratified in September, is a reflection of the need to alert owners and trainers who need 3 months to prepare horses coming in out of training. Yet it should also assist in winning strong fields for the whole mid-winter period of racing through to the traditional start in February.
In a summer blighted by lockdown and Corona-related issues, there will be plenty to look forward to when the leaves start falling.