LEADING personalities in the point-to-point world have expressed relief at the news that the remaining fixtures this season appear to have been secured thanks to a new insurance scheme.

Lack of insurance led to the cancellation of a number of fixtures late last year and again in January but the promoters of the sport’s new insurance policy have told The Irish Field that all hunts which host a point-to-point have signed up.

Sources connected to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board have also indicated that there are no further fixture cancellations on the cards in the short-term.

Champion handler Colin Bowe said: “It’s a massive relief to hear we’re all good to go. There seems to have been obstacle after obstacle in our way in recent years. I know a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes and I’d like to thank everyone involved.”

Record-breaking rider Derek O’Connor added: “The racing industry needs point-to-points and I had full faith that a solution would be found. Since Christmas it’s been noticeable that the attendance at fixtures has been great. People are anxious to get out and the appetite for racing is still there. Hunts need support and they should also provide entertainment so that the day appeals to a wider audience.”

John Nallen, handler and producer of the ‘Minella’ horses, said: “I’ll be honest – I didn’t think it would happen but it looks like there was great work done and it has been sorted out. It’s important now that the hunts are well-supported. They deserve big crowds and winning owners and handlers should consider handing back the prize money to the hunt if they can afford it.”

James Norton, spokesperson for the National Hunt Steeplechase, Point-to-Point and Field Sports Insurance Programme, said: “There has been a significant uptake in the insurance programme and currently the detailed work of setting out the insurance policy documents for individual hunts is underway.

“We have come a long way and we must thank all stakeholders for their patience as this has been a significant change. We especially wish to thank the IHRB, handlers and jockeys for their support for the programme.”

Further disruption to the point-to-point fixture list is not expected, he said. “All the signs are indicating that we will have a well-deserved successful season.”

Hunts have had to dig deep to pay vastly increased insurance premiums, as well as chipping in to a rainyday fund. Asked if the policy was sustainable, Norton said: “As we progress there will be a chance to further enhance the programme, starting over the summer and next autumn. Thereafter we will have more options under a number of headings to improve the product offering.”