by Arthur Shone

The South Shropshire Hunt meeting between the flags on Monday May 6th had all the usual thrills and spills, but unfortunately it had more than its fair share of controversy thrown in for good measure.

Despite all the watering of the course by John Whittle, the prospect of firm ground had frightened most of the runners away, in fact only 30 runners contested 7 races. Two of those races had 9 runners and 8 respectively, which left 13 runners to contest the remaining 5 races.

The largest field of the day with nine runners was the Scally Muire Ladies Open race, the feature race in the North Western Area, which was worth a monkey in prize money. The race was won by Sarah Hopkins aboard Bishops Hall, who was recording their second win in three days, beating Ambrose under Tessa Clarke by 6 lengths with Cardinal Rule a similar distance back in third. The race time of 5m 57s was a new course record for Eyton and it was fitting that the winner should be trained by Gordie Edwards at Walcott, Nr Telford as he trained the prolific winning late mare, Scally Muire.

The drama of the race occurred at the last obstacle when a man sat on top of the fence and was seen waving his arms about and shouting the words “Freedom” over and over again. The first three home all managed to jump the fence and avoid this person. However two inexperienced riders, Charlotte Bissett on Vicosa and Mrs J Owen on Lord of The Rings, both fell at the last. As this man was walking away, he was promptly arrested by the police. The stewards held an enquiry into this incident and surprisingly came to the conclusion that this idiot did not cause the horses to fall, but he certainly did not help matters. This man could have caused carnage with fatalities. Apparently, he was not an anti hunt demonstator, therefore he was either intoxicated or had a mental disorder. The stewards have referred this persons name to the Jockey Club with a full report. Hopefully he will warned off for life; racing does not need people like this on its turf.

Only two runners went to post for the Intermediate race, Spumante under Charlie Barlow and Wild Edric with the joint master of the South Shropshire Alistair Beedles in the plate. Spumante was pulled up badly lame by Charlie Barlow after jumping a couple of fences. Then, Wild Edric refused 4 times at the 5th fence and after unseating Alistair at the 5th attempt, he was pulled up and the race declared void, which meant that punters got their money back.

Punters must have thought that lightning could not strike twice but that exactly what happened in the Open Maiden. Doctor Dove fell early on under John Handley, which in turn brought down the jolly, Jacks’ Invader. This left Mervsintrouble with David Sherlock in the saddle as the sole runner left, but he then fell at the 5th and then again at the 13th, each time remounting, but he had been helped by the huntsman who also jumped the fences behind. Because he had what the stewards deemed to be outside assistance, he was disqualified and the race declared void, even though he completed the course.

David Smith’s Step Quick walked over in the Members to give Richard Burton another winner in his quest for the National riders championship. This facile win for owner, David Smith from Worthen, means that he was crowned the area champion horse yesterday. This was his 7th success of the season and he is a very worthy champion for our area.

The most popular winner of the day was provided by Alistair Beedles aboard Nothing Ventured in the Mens Open. He got the better of Alistair Crow on Whatafellow in the last 50 yards to win going away by a length and a half. Beedles is certainly the man in form, as this was his 4th consecutive win from 4 rides. He owns the winner jointly with Countess Goess Sarau, and trains the horse himself at Middle Shadeymore in Dorrington.

Malpas trainer Peter Morris and stable jockey Charlie Barlow recorded their second winner of the season after Chocs Away ran out a comfortable 4-length winner over Money Magic in the Maiden. The winner is owned by Peter Finnigan from West Kirby who trained the horse himself previously but sent him to Peter for a quieter lifestyle, as there was too much traffic and noise where he lives.

Michael Keel recorded his 7th winner of the season aboard Adventino who beat the local horse Teal hard held by 15 lengths in the Restricted. The winner is trained by Penny Grainger at Kidderminster and was her 5th of the season. More importantly for Keel, this win puts him in the lead for the novice riders championship.

I have been reporting on meetings between the flags now for 26 years and I cannot think of another one like it for controversy It is not the hunts fault that these things happen, but I expect the South Shropshire and the bumper crowd wished that these events had occurred somewhere else.