The new season began at Ballingarry on Saturday with an eight race card. The Ormond fixture traditionally provides the finale to the season on the June Bank Holiday weekend but on this occasion it was their turn to set a new season underway in unprecedented circumstances.
Ballingarry have previously held Autumn fixtures including on 29th September 2002 when the late John Thomas McNamara booted home a four timer.
On this occasion it was the four-time Champion Barry O’Neill who managed to match that feat and score four races on the card. In 2002 the country and sport were one season past overcoming Foot and Mouth while on this occasion it was an even more crucial fixture as it laid the template for managing a meeting in the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Some of the main points to note are below
• All attendees had pre-registered before attending at some point between 9am on Thursday and 8pm on Friday. Only those essential to the running of the meeting were allowed to attend. This was done via the IHRB website.
• All those who registered were sent a bar code. At the point of entry there was a horse box setup to check everyone in. At this point each attendee exited their vehicle and showed their barcode which was on their phone or printed out. This was scanned. Temperature was checked and a wrist band was provided. The IHRB assisted this process of checking in.
• Cars were allowed to drive in off the road for safety reasons before attendees were required to step out for screening.
• There was no request for entry from anyone who had not pre screened and all bar codes were successfully dealt with.
• Once wrist bands were applied Lorries parked as usual, riders parked in a specified area near the declarations area and officials parked as directed.
• Riders changed in their cars and were called as needed on the public address system when required. There was a slightly larger reliance on the PA system than normal for this reason. The riders cars being parked in a specified area ensured they were easy to access as required by handlers.
• Declarations were made in a large shed with a one way system and Perspex screens. Once made the person declaring left the building immediately.
• Number cloths were available away from the scales (outside on this occasion owing to the fine weather)
• Riders took their number cloths en route to scales which was near declarations area and weighed out before bringing the saddle out to the handler or representative.
• Stewards were in a separate area of the shed suitably distanced.
• Given the size of the location and parade ring etc there was no difficulty adhering to social distancing guidelines.
• All attendees wore masks at all times.
• After each race the parade ring only had a small number of people as needed in the parade ring.
• Riders returned to weigh in and then went through the one way system and left the shed returning to their cars. Most riders travelled alone other than some exceptions such as riders who live or work together and are close contacts.
• The IHRB made a contribution towards racecards where 10 Large Cards, 60 smaller cards and many single sheet cards were available.
• All races were generously sponsore.
• The Audio of each race was posted to p2p.ie immediately after each race for those who could not attend.
• With ground conditions considered yielding and perfect jumping ground there were two divides leading to an eight race card.
• It was anticipated given that owners return to Horse Racing on Monday 21st September that they would be allowed to return to Point to Points next weekend with further details to follow.
• The importance of having the entrance gate setup in good time before the meeting begins was obvious.
• The importance of having the riders information board made available as soon as declarations closed and divides were complete was vital to the smooth running of the meeting.
• The signage at entry noted that this was a non-public event
This was one of the most important meetings Point to Point racing has seen in its history and the Ormond committee ensured it ran smoothly and successfully showing the ability to run a point to point in keeping with required guidelines.
It was notable that all of the participants showed the same respect as has been the case at horse racing and with almost every aspect of the meeting outside it had a feel of being completely safe from start to finish.
Huge credit to all of the committees who have taken on the challenge of running a Point to Point meeting in such uncertain times and the Ormond Hunt have set the bar high.