The Handlers’ Association, set up to tackle the crisis in the point to point sector, worked with HRI CEO Brian Kavanagh to procure increased funding for the sector and the commitment of the HRI chief executive was not long in bearing fruit.
Gerry Kelleher, chairperson of the association, said: “Frankie Ward, Eugene O’Sullivan and I held an informal meeting with Minister Creed in Macroom back in July, and decided to set up the Irish Point-to-Point Handlers’ Association.
“Everybody was talking about how things were going badly, but there was no-one talking up for the handlers, and that’s how the association was formed. We then met Brian Kavanagh on September 6, and put forward a detailed presentation of how point to points were going, showing they were in crisis.
“We have seen a major drop-off in the number of owners getting involved in point-to-point racing due to the costs of keeping a horse in training, and thus handlers are struggling to stay in business. And, with the fall in the number of entries, the cost of running meetings is becoming unsustainable for hunts.
“But Mr Kavanagh was very accommodating, and committed to doing his best for us.”
And, true to Kavanagh’s word, HRI’s 2017 budget revealed an additional €728,000 being allocated to point to points. From that, there is an additional €2,000, bringing to €6,500 the grant for each hunt staging a meeting, while prize-money increased from €800 to €1,200 for four of the six races at a meeting.
“The future of the association is to work to assist handlers, owners and hunts,” added Kelleher. “We will also endeavour to look for further sponsorship for point to points in general.”
“We are delighted to be able to welcome Minister Creed to Aghabullogue this Sunday, as it gives us the opportunity to thank him for his commitment to the sport.
“The meeting, run on the land of Jack Murphy, is always very popular and well supported by locals. We’re expecting a big crowd as there is a very good card in prospect, and the first race will be off at 12:30.”