Point-to-point sector clings to hope it will be allowed to resume next month
Trainer Colin Bowe says recent removal of exemption for point-to-point threatens to have a massive impact on section of racing
Trainer Colin Bowe: “There comes a point where you go beyond that, and you’re beyond the point of no return.”Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The point-to-point sector is clinging to hopes it will be allowed resume at some point next month.
Leading trainer Colin Bowe was among those left reeling by the Government’s decision to remove point-to-points from an exemption on Level 5 coronavirus restrictions that allows elite and professional sports to continue behind closed doors.
He said last month’s suspension threatens to have a massive impact on a section of the sport that has traditionally proved a first step to supplying jump racing with some of its greatest stars.
Co Wexford-based Bowe, who trained Envoi Allen to win “between the flags” before his subsequent £400,00 purchase by Cheveley Park Stud, said on Monday that inactivity threatened to reverberate throughout the bloodstock industry.
“The impact is massive. As bad as we are it’s going to work down the ladder. Personally, if I don’t get going I won’t have any free stables or cashflow to buy three-year-olds. So it has a massive knock-on effect on store lads, foal lads and the sales.”
Bowe is one of a number of trainers who have transformed the sector with a business model of investing in young unraced stock and using point-to-points as a shop-window to sell them on. February and March are critical to advertising the talents of four-year-old talent in particular.
Bowe said he has up to 60 four-year-olds to run in point-to-points, and there were not nearly enough racecourse bumper opportunities to pick up the slack. He also said a lot of horses prepared for three-mile points were not sharp enough to contest maiden hurdles.
Like many others he is keeping his fingers crossed point-to-point action may get a signal to resume after the March 5th deadline on the current Covid-19 lockdown. If it doesn’t happen then nature could play a part later in the spring.
“If we got the weather we got last year [in April] the ground was very quick. So if you have a nice horse you’ve spent a lot of money on you’d probably be slow to take a chance on quick ground,” he said.
The GAA has also been removed from the elite sport exemption on Level 5 and is resigned to no on-field activity of any kind until Easter at the earliest. A similar timeframe could be disastrous for point-to-points although Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is keen to draw distinctions with other sports.
“There is a seasonal aspect and an animal aspect to this which is different to other sports. It’s part of the agricultural side of things,” said HRI’s chief executive, Brian Kavanagh.
“We will continue to make the case that there is a narrow window for these meetings to be run, and that horses are at certain ages and certain stages in their careers.
“The four-year-old part of the season really kicks in from February 1st in normal seasons. February-March are the key parts of that season. “There comes a point where you go beyond that, and you’re beyond the point of no return. That has significant impacts beyond the sporting.”
The point-to-point season runs until June, and Bowe conceded he may yet have to draw stumps with a lot of his young stock and wait for the following season with them.
“Hopefully we can get back [on March 5th]. Maybe it is wishful thinking, but hopefully if we could get back going in the middle of March, and we had extra meetings, we could catch up. But if we don’t the consequences would be serious,” said Bowe.