Schooling race breaks new ground

Maiden field at Garthorpe

On April 25 it will be 30 years since British point-to-pointing became a path-finder for racing under Rules when staging a Sunday meeting.

The fixture at Ashorne in Warwickshire had a vicar’s blessing but no betting, although less than two years later the sport led the way again when holding a Sunday card with bookies at Tweseldown.

Now British pointing is gearing up for another first – in Britain at least – by staging a two-and-a-half-mile ‘schooling race’ tomorrow week (April 22) after racing at Garthorpe. Jim Culloty (pictured above), the former jockey who is clerk of the course at the Leicestershire venue, came up with the idea, although such events are common in his Irish homeland. The aim is to give young horses a more realistic experience of racing than they could gain from schooling at home, although horses up to the age of 12 can take part.

Of the event, which is open to horses from point-to-point and licensed trainers’ yards, Culloty says: “It’s our final meeting of the season, but the ground should be suitable and the fences are in great shape. It will give trainers of summer jumpers the chance to have a racecourse gallop over fences, while trainers of pointers might want to school a young horse for education.

“The BHA seem keen on the idea, and if we get enough interest we will put it on. Regarding similar races at Garthorpe in future it’s all up for discussion.”

Lyn Williams, who represents the BHA in advising point-to-pointing on disciplinary and integrity, says: “Anything that teaches a young horse and gives them more experience before their first race is a good thing. Going to the start, then starting and jumping among other horses will be very useful. Comments will be gauged afterwards to see if the idea might be widened.”

According to Culloty much of the leg work and permission seeking was undertaken by Anna Saunders, secretary of the Midlands Point-to-Point Association. She says: “Through the Point-to-Point Authority we approached the BHA and received a positive ‘yes’. Full medical cover will be in place and we have double checked the insurance position. It’s exciting for the sport.”

Culloty was keen to stress that, in common with a number of point-to-point courses, Garthorpe will be open for schooling the day after Saturday’s fixture. However, the schooling race provides an opportunity to provide young thoroughbreds with a race-day experience.

Open to horses aged from four to 12 inclusive and trained in licensed or point-to-point yards, the race will be limited to riders who hold a conditional or professional jockeys’ licence, a point-to-point riders’ certificate or Cat A or B licence, although they must not have a current medical red entry.

There will be no prizemoney or betting, nor will the racecard carry details of horses or riders. The safety factor is 14, although a second division could be staged, and the entry fee is £50.

Entries close at noon on Thursday (April 20) – further details via email to anna-saunders@live.co.uk

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