IRISH Thoroughbred Marketing says it will do everything possible to promote the proposed ‘bumper trials’ for point-to-point horses which will be staged as soon as possible once racing resumes.
The marketing body is also exploring innovative ways in which it can help breeze-up vendors to offer their stock to potential purchasers, should traditional routes to market continue to be blocked.
While all stakeholders in racing and breeding have seen their livelihoods adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the pain is especially acute for breeze-up consignors and point-to-point handlers, for whom the spring sales are critical.
The point-to-point sector is arguably the most handicapped, as there will be no point-to-points until September at the earliest, meaning the handlers are certain to be overstocked and greatly restricted in what they can buy at the summer store horse sales.
Leading handler Colin Bowe welcomed this week’s news that the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board will seek to organise ‘trials’ or schooling bumpers for pointers as soon as they are allowed.
Bowe said: “Any port in a storm, we’ll give it a go. I have left off about 45 horses but I have kept in nine or 10 for these schooling races, if they happen. The ground is already drying out and my main wish is that the autumn point-to-point season can be started earlier than usual.”
The Wexford handler doubted if he would be in a position to buy at the store sales in late June, July and August, unless he managed to move on stock in the meantime. He said: “You’d have no finance, no pep in your step and no room for more horses.” Bowe holds a full trainer’s licence and so will have the option of running horses on the track once the summer jumps programme begins.
ITM chief executive Charles O’Neill says his team will pull out all the stops to promote the schooling races for pointers.
“We will ask IRIS to record them professionally, as we did with the barrier trials for two-year-olds, and that footage will be uploaded to our YouTube channel and pushed to agents, owners and trainers in Ireland and Britain. Every handler will have access to them too and I am sure Racing TV would love to show them. After that it’s up to the handlers to get them sold.”
O’Neill credited Paul Murtagh, Registrar of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board as the driving force behind the schooling races. It is understood that there has already been sufficient interest shown by handlers to justify an entire card of bumper trials, probably over two miles and at a Grade 1 National Hunt track.
ITM is also looking into ways in which it can support breeze-up vendors. O’Neill said: “If sales dates have been missed we would like to help consignors to produce high-quality videos of their two-year-olds breezing.
“We could even look at having a breeze-up session where vendors brought their horses to the track at a scheduled time and there was no interaction with others. We will need to be creative.”
O’Neill is buoyed by the success of the barrier trials run at Dundalk Stadium for the Asian market. He said: “Two of those horses were sold to Hong Kong and one of them won this week. That is a huge result and we are screaming about that all over Hong Kong at the moment.”