Barbury is a market leader in new PPA emphasis on early season fixtures
by Peter McNeile
British Point-to-Pointing’s latest fixtures list reveals there will be 173 meetings at 100 locations around the United Kingdom in the coming season – and an increased emphasis on early-season meetings.
The release of the 2018/19 list, which was ratified by the British Horseracing Authority on Friday, confirms the earliest commencement to a British season will take place at the former Jump racing venue of Buckfastleigh in Devon on Sunday, November 18. A total of 14 meetings have been scheduled before the end of the year, a 75 per cent increase on the eight pre-New Year fixtures held last season. This includes two of Barbury's four fixtures, starting with the Vine & Craven fixture transferred from the defunct Hackwood Park, just a week into the new season, on Sunday November 25th.
Meetings were encouraged to bulk up early fixtures – in part to relieve congestion later in the season – and the response has been welcomed by the Point-to-Point Authority.
Three venues will stage point-to-pointing for the first time, at Eaton Hall in Herefordshire, the licenced racecourse of Ffos Las in Carmarthenshire, and at Monmouthshire Showground in Monmouthshire. Eaton Hall – not to be confused with the former Cheshire venue – is on land owned by the Price family, well known to followers of Jump racing. It stages a meeting on November 24, while Ffos Las will host a fixture on December 9. Monmouthshire Showground, which made several attempts to launch last season, but was thwarted by severe winter weather, will try again, with fixtures on February 24 and March 30.
Hackwood Park in Hampshire, Garnons in Herefordshire and Ystradowen in Glamorgan have all closed, but another former Welsh venue, Bonvilston, will reopen for the first time since 2011 when staging fixtures on April 20 and May 5.
Among other changes is an increase in the number of Point-to-Point Flat races. Introduced as a single race in the 2016/17 season at the Barbury International fixture, and converted into six events 12 months later, the JRL Group-sponsored Flat races have now been increased to 10. Run over two miles, they are restricted to four, five and six-year-olds who have not run under the rules of any recognised Racing Authority, including Point-to-Point steeplechases.
The season concludes at Umberleigh in North Devon on June 15, and National sponsors Connolly’s RED MILLS, The Jockey Club, Skinner’s Pet Food, The Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, and Timico are all providing continued support for the sport.