DOZENS of point-to-points are in serious danger of being cancelled next spring due to the ongoing absence of an insurance underwriter.
The Irish Field understands that all fixtures under the Cork & Waterford Point-to-Point Association, and those staged in Northern Ireland, are safe but virtually every other hunt has seen its insurance cover expire without a renewal offer, or it is about to expire.
This week three fixtures were hastily convened for Sunday, December 5th, just days before those hunts lose their insurance cover.
Senior officials in the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee have been using their contacts in financial and insurance circles to see if a deal can be done but so far there have been no takers and time is running out. Part of the problem is the claims history associated with hunting while a number of London-based underwriters are no longer licensed to insure against risks in the European Union.
The Cork & Waterford deal is thought to have been sealed before the crisis deepened, while the Northern Ireland hunts have more insurance options as they are part of the United Kingdom.
A spokesperson for the INHSC said: “Our Senior Steward Martin O’Donnell and our Registrar Paul Murtagh have had extensive meetings with representatives of the insurance industry and are working tirelessly to find solutions.”
John Nallen, a point-to-point handler and owner of the Hotel Minella in Clonmel, says he is deeply concerned and has been doing all he can behind the scenes to resolve the issue. “My local TDs, Michael Lowry and Jackie Cahill, have raised this issue the Dáil, but there is no solution on the horizon.
“I don’t like suggesting this but perhaps point-to-points will have to be divorced from hunting and instead run as community racedays in aid of local charities. Another option would be for Horse Racing Ireland to extend its racecourse insurance to cover point-to-point racing. That may not be possible but HRI needs to get involved in some way.
“Liberty Insurance used to cover point-to-points but they have walked away from all equestrian business. They did the same with hotels a few years ago. We need to find an insurer and make this cover attractive to them. If it is not sorted out by December 15th then it will be too late as nothing gets done for a month in finance once Christmas approaches.”
One hunt official spoke to The Irish Field this week about their frustration over the matter. “We are fit to kill over it. We were told it was all going to be sorted out in time but the deal was called off and now we can only hunt on foot, with no revenue coming in. There will be very few hunts left going in the new year.”
At a meeting of the cross-party Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture this week, a number of senators and TDs implored the Minister of Agriculture to use his influence to solve the crisis. Jackie Cahill TD said: “Point-to-points are the cornerstone of the National Hunt industry, the nursery for Cheltenham winners. There is a serious issue now that Liberty has pulled out of the market.”