There was great disappointment for Amateur Jockeys with confirmation coming on Wednesday morning that they will not be permitted to ride at next month’s Cheltenham Festival due to the UK government’s restrictions on grassroots sport lasting until March 29.
The four days of racing at Prestbury Park is one of the highlights of the year for them with three races restricted to amateurs – namely the National Hunt Challenge Cup, The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir, and St. James’s Place Festival Hunter Chase – the latter of which is the most coveted price for all in point-to-pointing.
Speaking on the Nick Luck Daily Podcast, Peter Wright, Chairman of the Point-to-Point Authority confirmed:
“Sadly I think we have to accept the government decision and there will be no amateur riding under rules until then (March 29) unless there is a sudden change of heart by the government, but I don’t think that is likely.
“It is a disappointment and needs must in these very difficult situations and I am delighted at least that the Foxhunter will be going ahead and our owners and trainers will also get the opportunity to produce their horses for what I think will be a very good renewal.”
Jamie Codd the winning-most amateur jockey at the Cheltenham Festival had recently spoke of how it “would be a big miss to have Cheltenham without amateurs” whilst also stating he did not belief that there would be too many amateurs in Ireland that would turn professional for it.
Last year’s Festival saw three Irish Qualified Riders enjoying Festival success with Codd successful in the National Hunt Chase aboard Ravenhill, whilst there were also first Festival victories for Rob James in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir on Milan Native and Maxine O’Sullivan on It Came To Pass for father Eugene in the Foxhunters.
Currently Qualified Riders are permitted to continue race riding in Ireland, however in Britain, Hunter Chases have this season only featured those riders holding a professional licence which will mean leading Irish hopes such as Billaway, It Came To Pass and Staker Wallace will have to be ridden next month by professional licence holders.
With the UK government’s restrictions easing at the end of March, that does offer hope for the Randox Health Aintree Foxhunters which is due to be run on Thursday April 8.