A Guide to Point-to-Point Racing


Point to Point Racing


Those with only a passing interest in horse racing may think that the action begins and ends with the professional flat and National Hunt action. However, just as with most sporting pursuits in the UK and Ireland, an amateur version of horse racing exists and thrives in many areas of the country. Welcome to the world of Point-to-Point-to-point racing.

What is Point-to-Point Racing?

Point-to-Point Racing is the amateur branch of jumps racing, overseen by the Jockey Club but falling under the jurisdiction of the Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association. There is no equivalent flat version of Point-to-Point racing, although ex-flat runners are occasionally sighted at a Point-to-Point event.

Why is it Called Point-to-Point Racing?

In the earliest days of National Hunt racing, with permanent racetracks not yet in place, courses were often laid out between notable landmarks – the first recorded jumps race beginning at the Buttevant Church steeple and ending at the steeple of Doneraile Church in County Cork. And so the term steeplechasing was born.

Of course, when deciding where to place churches around the land, the suitability to act as the beginning and end of a horse race seems unlikely to have been considered at all. In the absence of conveniently located places of worship, those wishing to stage a race designated one "point" in the land as the start and another "point" as the finish line. As such, the origin of the term really is as simple as racing from one point to another.

Which Jockeys May Take Part?

All Point-to-Point jockeys must meet three criteria. Firstly, they must be at least 16 years old. Secondly, they must possess a Riders Qualification Certificate. Finally, they must be amateur riders, i.e. not paid for their riding services.

What About the Horses?


British Point-to-Point Runners

Any horse based with a professional trainer may not compete in a British Point-to-Point unless the horse is also owned by the trainer. Most horses lining up in a British Point-to-Point hail from amateur Livery yards and are often former National Hunt runners at the tail end of their careers.

In a remnant of horse racing's historical relationship with the controversial sport of hunting, all Point-to-Point runners must also possess a certificate from the Master of Hounds, verifying that they have participated in a recognised Hunt for a minimum of four days during the hunting season. One perk of this licence is that it permits Point-to-Point runners to compete in Hunter Chase events at professional racetracks – including the valuable contest at the Cheltenham Festival.

Irish Point-to-Point Runners

The rules are slightly different in Ireland, where professional trainers are allowed to enter their runners in Point-to-Point races. In contrast to British events, Irish Point-to-Points often feature younger horses making the first steps in their jumping career. Success in the Point-to-Point sphere can lead to bigger and better things. The likes of Denman, Faugheen, Best Mate, and many more all contested Irish Point-to-Point races in their younger years.

Types of Point-to-Point Races

  • Maiden - Restricted to horses who have never previously won a race
  • Intermediate - Open to runners who have won a maiden or a National Hunt Flat Race. Horses who have previously won an Intermediate race may not enter
  • Open - Open to all Point-to-Point horses
  • Hunters’ Chase - Restricted to Point-to-Point runners but usually held at a professional racetrack
  • Hunt Members Race - Restricted to runners registered with a particular hunt
  • Confined - Open runners registered with any of the named hunts listed in the conditions of the race

Point-to-Point Courses

Perhaps the best illustration of the popularity of Point-to-Point racing is the number of Point-to-Point racecourses in the UK. Whereas there are 59 professional racecourses, the Point-to-Point sphere boasts 97.

Spread over the length and breadth of the country, these courses range from permanent fixtures – such as that which lies inside the main track at Hexham Racecourse – to pop-up tracks laid out on the countryside or in farmers' fields. Rather than the familiar white railings of the racecourse, the route around most Point-to-Point tracks is identified by a series of flags – hence the nickname, "racing between the flags".

Most Point-to-Point races take place over three miles (two laps of the track at most venues) and must feature a minimum of 18 fences, including two ditches. The fences tend to be constructed from birch and are around 4ft6 in height – very similar to those you would see in a National Hunt chase contest.

Scotland, Wales, and just about every county of the UK has at least one Point-to-Point racecourse, with the Point-to-Point Racing Company providing a course finder to assist prospective visitors with finding their nearest course.

When is the Point-to-Point Season?

The Point-to-Point season begins in late November continues until mid-June – taking a very similar spot in the calendar to the core National Hunt campaign, albeit finishing a little later.

Biggest Point-to-Point Races

A day out at any Point-to-Point promises fun for all the family, with many venues laying on additional entertainment. The majority of fixtures are relatively low-key affairs, but, as with its professional cousin, the Point-to-Point season boasts several standout events, with the highlight being the Lady Dudley Cup. Taking place at the West Midlands track of Chaddesley Corbett in April each year, this contest is widely recognised as the first Open event in the UK, having made its debut in 1897.

The Lady Dudley Cup may be the most prestigious race, but the biggest meeting comes in the shape of the Point-to-Point evening at Cheltenham Racecourse in May, with the popular fixture including finals in several categories.

Can You Bet on Point-to-Point Racing Online?

Steeped in racing heritage, Point-to-Point Racing has not yet ventured into the online betting waters, meaning you must visit the track to place a bet on an event. Most Point-to-Point racecourses provide traditional bookmakers and tote-style betting facilities, often beside the parade ring/paddock. A word of warning - cash is the currency of choice in Point-to-Point racing – attempting to bet with a debit card will usually end in disappointment.


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