by Brian & Gill Armstrong

A large crowd and competitive racing helped the Cotley Hunt celebrate their 50 years of racing at Cotley Farm, near Chard, on Bank Holiday Monday. The highlight of the meeting was undoubtedly the closing Invitation Charity Flat race which has raised a considerable sum of money for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. Participants Colin and Richard Mitchell alone between them had raised nearly £3,000 for this worthy cause.
The meeting began with a popular victory for Marie Burrough’s Park End in the Hunt Members race. Marie, a chartered surveyor, had been tempted to ride the horse herself but decided to leave the mount to Martin Sweetland, the horse’s usual pilot. Marie was delighted to win the race as her grandfather, mother and uncle have all been whips to the Hunt in the past.

The Maiden Race for 5, 6 & 7-year-olds produced the closest finish of the day with the judge giving the verdict to Risington over Erics Way by a short head. The winner, owned and bred by Venetia Williams, looks a five-year-old of some promise, as this was his first ever race. Rose Vickery, who trains the youngster, reported that originally Sam Thomas was intended to ride the five-year-old but when he became unavailable Rose managed to secure the services of Alex Charles-Jones at short notice and he proved to be an able deputy.

Nearly Noble, owned and ridden by Ben Dixon, won the Wessex Area Feature Race, the Mixed Open, in good style. Millyhenry was travelling well when blundering very badly at the second last and may have given the winner a much closer race at the finish. Ben had double cause to celebrate as he became a father for the second time last Thursday and proud mother Mel and baby Thomas were present to cap a memorable week for the family.

The Countryside Alliance Club Members Race was won in good style by Oscar Wilde and his promising young rider Dan Drake. This was their fourth success together this season and Dan was quick to praise his horse for deciding the right pace to follow and when to make his move for victory. Despite being rather untidy at the last fence, he still ran on strongly to record a three-length victory.

The Restricted Race was the first leg of a double for trainer Richard Barber and rider Nick Williams. John Honeyball’s Keitho followed up on his initial victory at Woodford last month by easily winning this race, although Askers Jack was upsides the winner before falling at the third last. John credited the victory to his daughter Theresa who has done much of the work to bring the horse on after he had been bought from Ireland. John hopes that Keitho may progress further to allow his son Anthony, now a professional jockey, to ride him under National Hunt rules.

The Maiden Race for eight year olds and over was an easy victory for Peter Maltby’s Lord Of The Mist, trained by Richard Barber and ridden by Nick Williams. The horse has had jumping problems this year but with a combination of straighter jumping and more suitable going he was able to register his first victory. Peter bought the horse, previously owned by the late Robert Hitchens, at Ascot Sales three years ago.

Nine gallant riders of varying age took part in the Invitation Flat Race with the race being won by the most recently retired Ron Treloggen aboard Beacon Boy, which he trains himself. The race over a mile and a half was run at a good pace and the winner stole a march on his rivals at just over half way by taking a four-length lead. He was able to hold the late challenge of Dr David Chesney riding Peat Wood, who ran a very promising race to finish second.