A ROW over dates has led to the cancellation of this year’s two-day Kinsale point-to-point, the traditional end-of-season fixture.
The South Union Hunt has traditionally raced in Kinsale on the Saturday and Sunday of the June bank holiday weekend, dovetailing with the Ormond Foxhounds who race at Ballingarry on the Sunday and Monday.
However, the stewards of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee decided to shorten the season this year and the fixture list published last autumn had Kinsale moved to May 28th and 29th. The Ormonds had already moved the previous year to a weekend in May.
The South Union believe that the move away from the bank holiday will affect their crowd numbers and make the meeting commercially unviable. They say they have been working behind the scenes to reclaim their traditional date but accepted defeat six weeks ago. The news was only confirmed by the INHSC on April 22nd.
Local handler Robert Tyner said: “The Turf Club should give them back their date. The meeting is popular and the ground is always safe.”
A senior rider commented: “I don’t agree that the season needed to be shortened. I have always enjoyed the two days in Kinsale and there was always a great atmosphere there.”
A spokesperson for the INHSC said: “The stewards decided last autumn that the totality of the season was too long and that it should finish at the end of May. The issue can be raised again at the end-of-season review but you cannot stretch the season beyond its capabilities.”
A prominent and long-standing member of the South Union Hunt said: “Since I can remember, we have raced on the June bank holiday and one of the INHSC stewards told me himself we have the best atmosphere of any point-to-point in the country.
“In 2017 we had a paid attendance of over 3,500 on one day alone. Everyone in racing is looking for ways to bring new people to the sport and that is what we were doing. Kinsale will be empty on the weekend of May 28th-29th, those dates are no good for us.”
Local councillor Marie O’Sullivan expressed disappointment that the racing was cancelled this year. “The point-to-point benefits the town in terms of hospitality and it is a good social occasion. The organisers always provide amenities for families and children. It’s true to say the bank holiday weekend helps though I think it could work on another date with sufficient notice.”
Meanwhile, the Ormond Hunt is happy with its new dates of May 21st-22nd. Jessica Cahalan reported: “We actually looked for the change. Our track dries out quickly and, even though we typically spend €3,000 on making it safe, it can still be on the quick side. We tried the new date last year and I think our committee and volunteers appreciated having the June bank holiday for themselves for once.”