Owner and founder of p2p.ie, Richard Pugh (@pughp2p), will be writing regular columns for www.jumpsracing.co.uk this season. For his first blog, Richard discusses the importance of P2P racing on the sport and also picks out some ex-point-to-pointers to follow this Christmas...
Point-to-Point racing in Ireland has often been described as the breeding ground of the national hunt racing industry in Ireland, having produced an ever growing list of talented jockeys and horses on a yearly basis including star Gold Cup winning names such as Best Mate, Cool Ground, Mr Mulligan, Cool Dawn, War of Attrition and Denman.
In 2003, we started P2P.ie with the aim of providing online entries, results, ratings, video replays and more for the point-to-point industry in the hope of promoting the sector to potential buyers and to widen the following of point-to-points within Ireland and abroad.
At the same time, we also began recording the number of track races in Britain and Ireland which were being won by horses who had started their careers between the flags, with 445 winners recorded throughout that first year of complete records during the 2004/05 season. Strikingly, that figure has multiplied over the course of the next decade, and last season alone we witnessed over 1,100 track races being won by Irish point-to-point graduates.
The influence these horses are having was evident with the fact that 1 in 5 of horses running at the Cheltenham Festival, the showpiece of National Hunt racing, started their career at point-to-point somewhere in Ireland. Whilst there were also 78 graded winners graduating from the sport last season, including the winner of eight races at the Cheltenham Festival and 11 at the Punchestown equivalent.
The Irish point-to-point season typically comprises of 100 fixtures between late September and the June Bank Holiday weekend, and last season appeared to be a pretty special one within the four-year-old division. With the good returns that point-to-point handlers are receiving at the sales, they are continuing to re-invest in a greater type of horse, which is continuing to increase the profile of horses we are seeing each year.
In the past number of weeks, we are already seeing that ring through with the early efforts of last season’s class of four-year-old’s, no more so than the likes of Getabird, who won his maiden point for Colin Bowe at Largy last April before being sold to champion trainer Willie Mullins for €200,000.
That son of Getaway made an impressive winning debut for his new yard at Fairyhouse earlier this month, ensuring he was quickly installed as the ante-post favourite for the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, a market dominated his fellow four-year-old pointers including Next Destination, Judgement Day, Neon Wolf, Carter McKay and more. Meanwhile, Samrco became the first of last year’s four-year-old’s to pick up black type when landing the Listed Bumper at Navan last week having who won his point-to-point at Monksgrange in April for Colin Bowe. He has not let his new connections down, remaining unbeaten to date, and he looks like a horse that we could be talking plenty about over the years to come.
This autumn so far we have witnessed some very talented young horses in action in Irish point-to-points, continuing the trend of high quality performers. This was no more so evident than in one of the divides of last month’s four-year-old maiden at Tattersalls Farm where the first four home each cost in excess of €40,000 which also proves the high financial risks that the owners and handlers are willing to take in the hope that their horse will be good enough to be sold on and leave them with a profit.
These exciting performances between the flags have unsurprisingly led to an extremely satisfying autumn for the Irish point-to-pointers in the sales ring with nine graduates alone realising six-figure sums within the first three months of the new season.
Finian’s Oscar was one of the undoubted stars of the season thus far, as having won his four-year-old maiden at Portrush for Denis Murphy in October, he was sold at the following months Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham November sale for £250,000. He is the perfect example of ready-made winners that can be sourced from the pointing circuit in Ireland, as he made a winning debut at Hereford just 58 days after that Portrush success, and only 38 days after being bought from the sales. He is a horse held in very high regard by his new trainer Colin Tizzard, a man who certainly knows a good horses when he sees one as he has proven over the past couple of months and is another to look forward to.
We have an exciting period of racing ahead of us over the Christmas and New Year, with many ex-point-to-pointers entered in nearly all of the graded races across Britain and Ireland, whilst some exciting four-year-old’s could well make their track debuts for new connections, with the likes of Redhotfillypeppers, Next Destination, Carter McKay and Judgement Day, amongst others holding preliminary entries.
I have no doubt that I will have many names to talk about in next month’s feature where we will also pin-point some of the most exciting autumn point-to-point winners from this season worth following into 2017.