Point-to-point racing, or ‘pointing’, is an amateur version of steeplechasing. Point-to-point races, historically known as hunt races, originated in the second half of the nineteenth century, as a means of keeping hunting horses fit outside of the main fox hunting season, which traditionally runs between November 1 and May 1. Much the same as steeplechasing, the name was derived from the fact that hunters raced, quite literally, from ‘point-to-point’ over open countryside and negotiated any natural obstacles they encountered along the way.
In response to the increased professionalism of steeplechasing in the latter part of the nineteenth century, point-to-point races were staged for for proper, certified hunters, ridden exclusively by amateur jockeys. Over time, such races came to be run on temporary oval circuits, laid out on working farmland, rather than between two points cross country. Nowadays, 110 point-to-point courses approved, but not licensed, by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) exist throughout the country.
The BHA oversees point-to-point racing, but delegates governance of the sport to the to the Point-to-Point Authority, whose directors include representatives of the Point-to-Point Owners & Riders Association, the Point-to-Point Secretaries Association and the Masters of Foxhounds Association.
At a local level, point-to-point fixtures are organised by a hunt, an approved club, society or association or the Armed Forces, subject to application and the payment of a fee to the Point-to-Point Authority.
Most point-to-point races are staged over distances of 2 miles 4 furlongs or 3 miles. However, ‘open’ and ‘conditions’ races, which are open to any horse, subject to restrictions and conditions, may be staged over longer distances, at the discretion of the course inspector. ‘Maiden’ races are restricted to horses that have yet to win a point-to-point steeplechase or any race under the Rules, while ‘Hunt Members’ races are restricted to horses owned by members of, or subscribers to, the hunt staging the fixture, or affiliated hunts.