THE Government has approved a plan for the resumption of point-to-point racing on a limited basis.
Full details are likely to be published in the coming days but The Irish Field understands that a handful of fixtures, staged on a racecourse and catering for four-year-olds and five-year-olds only, will take place in April.
At a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon, a proposal put forward by Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board for the safe resumption of point-to-points was adopted, The Irish Field has been told.
This followed some intense lobbying by many in the sport and senior political figures. It is understood that an assurance that the races would be staged under HRI oversight proved a key factor in gaining Government approval.
The first such fixture is expected be held as early as Saturday week, April 10th.
Over 30 point-to-points were staged last autumn behind closed doors but there have been no point-to-points staged so far this year following a Government decision in early January that point-to-points did not meet the criteria to be considered an elite sport.
When it became apparent at the end of February that the suspension was likely to remain in place for all of March, HRI and the IHRB hatched a plan to stage five racemeetings consisting of bumpers which were confined to horses with hunter certificates.
While these flat races were well-received by the point-to-point sector, they did not suit the majority of pointers who have been trained to show their best form when racing over fences and over three miles.
Point-to-points resumed in the UK on Monday, behind closed doors at Revesby in the Midlands and there was a winner at Maisemore in Gloucester today Tuesday for Wexford rider Tiernan Power Roche who opened his account on Flaming Ambition having crossed the Irish Sea in recent weeks with 10 horses for Harley Dunne and Sean Doyle to take advantage of the return of British point-to-pointing.
Irish society has been operating under Level 5 restrictions since after Christmas. On Tuesday at 6pm the Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced plans to gradually ease restrictions next month, with significant improvements expected in May and throughout the summer.
Point-to-points were not specifically mentioned by the Taoiseach, and nor are they referred to in the new roadmap for the reopening of society published on the Government website.
From April 12th people can travel freely within their county and the construction industry can resume on a phased basis.
From April 19th inter-county GAA training will be allowed, along with training for other high-performance athletes.
From April 26th, outdoor activities such as golf and tennis can resume, as will sports training for all under 18s, while some outdoor visitor attractions will open.
As the national vaccination programme steps up a gear in May, June and July, more retail services are scheduled to open, such as hotels and guest houses.
“We are on the final stretch of this terrible journey,” the Taoiseach said.
MORE ON THIS STORY IN THE IRISH FIELD NEXT WEEKEND