RA Hunt Point To Point
The next RA Hunt Point To Point meeting is scheduled for 23rd January 2016. Further information to follow.
A point-to-point is a form of horseracing over fences for hunting horses and amateur riders; it is also sometimes referred to as racing ‘between the flags’.
Horses running in Point-to-Points must be Thoroughbreds, save in the case of Hunt Members races and certain other Club Members races. The owner must be a member, subscriber or farmer of a recognized pack of Hounds and obtain a Hunter Certificate from the Master to that that effect. Similarly, potential riders must also obtain a Riders Qualification Certificate (RQC) from a Hunt Secretary and register it with the PPA.
These races are also known as “ Steeplechases” ; a race of some four miles jumping stone walls, ditches and hedges as they presented themselves. By keeping the steeple of the church in sight (steeplechasing) both riders could see their finishing point.
One of the few remaining point-to-point races run under the original conditions is the New Forest Boxing Day point-to-point, which has a given start and finish point, with riders allowed to choose their own course in-between. This race is run over the open New Forest, with the general area of the finishing point publicised only within the fortnight before the race, and the starting point kept secret until the day of the race itself. It includes races for children and veteran riders. The majority of the races are for riders on purebred New Forest ponies, but some races are open to horses and ponies of other breeds.
Point-to-Point races are normally run over a minimum of three miles, but certain races, including some blue riband are longer, and Maiden races for young horses (aged four to seven years) can be run over 2½ miles.
Most Point-to-Point courses are laid out on ordinary farm land, although a few are configured with some permanent buildings such as Larkhill at which the Royal Artillery Hunt Point To Point is run. Untypically, for a Point To Point Course, Larkhill does not consist of three miles in two circuits, but one and a half. Every course must have a minimum number of 18 fences and at least two fences must have ditches. This however can be reduced if certain fences are unfit or unsafe to be jumped (e.g. due to ground conditions or a fallen horse being in the way). The fences are made of birch and are approx 4 foot 6 inches high.
Before the Second World War, there were two types of amateur race meeting, the point-to-point, mostly run by Hunts and the “bone fide” military race meeting. All that existed at Larkhill was a rudimentary practice course laid out in the early 1930’s.
Shortly after the war, the School of Artillery was commanded by Brigadier (later Major General) Bill Heath, who started up the Royal Artillery Saddle Club. Not content with this, he was determined to have a proper racecourse at Knighton Down. His idea was that the course should one day be the main venue for a series of “bone fide” meetings.
The course was laid out during the winter of 1946/7 and although some undulations were partially levelled, it mainly followed the natural lie of the land and is much as you see it today. The turf is old downland, topsoil laid on a bed of chalk and flint, causing good drainage and as it has not been ploughed or grazed for generations, it retains an enviable mat of grass and roots to aid the going in all weathers.
The first meeting was held under the auspices of the RA Saddle Club on 23 April 1947. It rained incessantly, the wind reached gale force and all the tents, with the exception of the dressing and weighing rooms, were blown away
The RA Hunt met there in 1948 and 1949 and in 1950 the first United Services meeting was held. This was a direct descendant of the RA Saddle Club meeting and was joined at Larkhill in 1994 by the Army meeting thus fulfilling, in some way the original idea of the founders of the racecourse. In 2011 the United Services and Army meeting were merged as a direct result of the drawdown of the military and consequently the Defence companies who had traditionally sponsored them.
On the 21 February 1953, HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh attended the United Services meeting and presented them with the Coronation Cup to the winner of the Open Race. This cup was presented to the race committee by the Officers of the Royal Artillery.
Over the years Larkhill has gained a reputation for challenging fences and has provided a venue for horses on their way to competing over larger obstacles at Cheltenham and Sandown Park.
In 2002 the ancient wriggly tin buildings, which housed many of the officials were removed and replaced by the wooden Control Building – rather less precarious and housing the Racecourse Control Room, Stewards Room, Commentary Box and racecard kiosk. The Queens’s Building was also built and now houses 2 large hospitality suites on the top floor, with a fully fitted kitchen. On the ground floor are the jockeys changing rooms, with heating, loos and a dedicated medical room.
The RA Hunt Point To Point is usually on the last Saturday in January and the date for the next meeting is 23rd January 2016.