independent

Friday 13 December 2019

Brexit casts shadow over new P2P season

Horse racing round-up

Colin Bowe
Colin Bowe
Donnacha Doyle

Pegasus

The countdown has already begun for the new point to point season which swings into action on the weekend of October 5 and 6, but looming large over this sport, which has been dominated by Wexford handlers and riders in recent years, is the spectre of Brexit, and especially the serious implications that a 'no deal exit' could have.

Most businesses and people will be affected in some way but the Wexford point to point business, which has assumed a quite significant and growing importance to the economy of the county in the past decade or more, is particularly anxious and concerned that a 'hard Brexit' could cause considerable disruption and expense.

The horse racing industry as a whole is also concerned about extra paperwork and red tape affecting the free movement of horses to Britain for the major races at places like Cheltenham, Aintree, Newmarket, Epsom etc, and also to the sales.

There has been a tri-partite arrangement between authorities in Ireland, the UK and France for quite a few years now which has allowed for relatively trouble free movement of horses between the three countries.

This will probably end in the event of the UK crashing out without a deal as they will then be outside the EU and all sorts of customs and veterinary checks and other red tape will have to be complied with every time a horse crosses a border between the UK and the EU.

There will be a need to hire in expert agents and other professional assistance.

There is also a vibrant point to point community in the Six Counties with about twenty-five well supported fixtures held there during the season, always attracting a strong contingent from Wexford and other parts of the South. It would be a pity if this great example of South-North co-operation were to be put at risk.

Wexford point-to-point horses have earned a fine reputation in recent years among racing trainers and owners in Britain, and they have been prepared to pay good prices at sales in Cheltenham, Ascot, Doncaster etc., just days after the horses proved themselves on the Irish circuit.

Many of these well-bred horses have gone on be successful at the top levels on the British tracks.

This quick sales turnaround could well be very difficult, if not impossible, if a new regime is instituted.

While there is lots of anxiety and worry around, there are still a few weeks left until the next Brexit deadline at the end of October.

There have been indications in recent days that talks between the EU and the UK are being ramped up at last, though some question marks remain over whether British PM Boris Johnson is seriously interested in making a deal or is actually preparing for a General Election over there.

All those involved in Wexford and the national point to point and racing scene are fervently hoping that good sense will prevail and that a Brexit deal will be struck, even at the 11th hour.

The autumn half of the new season begins at Toombridge, Co. Antrim, on October 5, with Castletown-Geoghegan on the next day in Westmeath. Twenty nine meetings are due to be staged before the Christmas break arrives after three meetings on December 8.

For the diary, local dates are: Shillelagh and District Hunt at Tinahely on October 20; Wexford Hunt at Knockmullan House, New Ross, on November 10; The Wicklow Hunt at Tinahely on November 17; the Killinick Harriers at Lingstown on November 24, and The Carlow Farmers at Borris House on December 8.

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