'Unprecedented' start to pointing as rain – and snow – still stops play
The relentless rain, snow and ice and then rain again has played havoc with the Devon and Cornwall area point-to-point calendar disrupting five out of seven meetings so far.
The South Devon Hunt was dealt a double blow at the weekend after losing the second of their scheduled meetings at Ideford Arch, near Newton Abbot.
At the start of the season they had to abandon their December 30 fixture due to waterlogged ground. A month later they were faced with the same issue and cancelled at short notice.
"We still looked fit to run on Friday but the rain forecast for Saturday night was exceeded enormously," said South Devon secretary Mary-Jane Rayner.
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"We had to call for a late inspection on Sunday to decide whether we could go-ahead. There was a quite a lot of bad feeling about the late abandonment but we felt everyone was screaming for an opportunity to run their horses and we really did have a fair chance of providing that. The cancellation was made in everyone's best interests."
Mrs Rayner added: "We are sorry for the inconvenience and sorry to let people down. A huge amount of effort goes into organising an event like this and so naturally we are all very disappointed."
She noted that the hunt was hoping for a bumper crowd of up to 1,000 as it was another blank weekend of racing.
"This is one of our key fund raisers and financially it's bad news as we won't be able to recover many of the costs. We've lost one meeting but at least we've been fortunate to rearrange the other for May 25."
The weather has also taken its toll on meetings planned at Black Forest Lodge, Exeter.
"We've have three affected on the trot now," said Black Forest Club secretary Andrew Knox. "We lost the final one of last season and the two scheduled for this season have been postponed or cancelled – everything is crossed for this weekend's Mid Devon meeting on Sunday."
Devon & Cornwall area point-to-point secretary Gordon Chambers said the number of abandoned meetings was "unprecedented".
"Never in my 30 years of pointing have I known a start like this. We've had the wet with the snow in between and no respite apart from a little window to get the two Wadebridge meetings away."
Mr Chambers added: "It's a nightmare for everyone. A huge amount of work and expense goes into setting up each meeting which has upwards of 300 personnel to organise on the day. You then have the awful decision is it on or is it off and the cancellation then brings a backlog of runners and meetings which then you have to try and rearrange.
"My phone bill has gone through the roof trying to rearrange meetings to fit in with the current calendar. In some cases it means two meetings running on the same weekend which is not an ideal scenario but the hunts have been very sympathetic."
As a trainer Gordon says, like many others, he has not been able to run any of his horses yet. "They've been entered now for three or four weeks and still not run. We're now into February and I've never had a situation like this before. We all just want to get out there now."
The Tiverton Foxhounds will try again at Chipley Park tomorrow with the Mid Devon at Black Forest on Sunday.
Racing has also been affected at Exeter racecourse which has had to cancel three of its fixtures. "It's obviously very disappointing, not only for everyone at the racecourse who have worked so hard in preparation but also for everyone who is connected to the horses due to run and people who were coming to watch racing," said general manager Tim Darby.