by Lee Glanville

A record crowd enjoyed the sunshine and spectacular scenery at Flete Park on Saturday and, despite runners being thin on the ground, had the excitement of close finishes. 

Only three runners went to post for the ladiesí open, a Gerrard qualifier, but distances between the three at the post were a neck and half a length. The youngster of the field, Priestthorn, 11, ridden by Wendy Southcombe, beat the 14-year-old Bells Wood (Vicky Lucas) and 15-year-old Polden Pride (Lucia Borradaile), with all three in contention over the last.

There was also a close finish in the menís four mile open with Charlie Studd getting MinerísDance home by half a length from Colin Heard on Belarus after a lengthy tussle. This race though was marred by the death of top stayer Daraydan who was put down after shattering a fetlock on the flat in the early stages of the race.

A raider from the Royal Artillery stole the spoils in the Restricted, Snowboy (J OíRourke) belying his name and showing a liking for fast ground. He had a two-length victory over Eagle Hill whose jockey Rachel Barrow was having her first win over fences in the Devon and Cornwall area. The mementos for this race were presented by Jan and Pete Shaw who had celebrated their wedding earlier in the day and held their reception in a marquee at the course. 

There was a double for trainer Nicky Frost, wife of trainer Jimmy Frost. Mary McCarthy piloted her own Nimbus Stratus to victory in the opening membersí race, for her first win, and Jimmyís Defendtherealm followed up under Derek McKenna in the six runner Confined. Roma Cookís good mare County Bash was second under Lucy Gardner, just a length and a half in arrears. There was a stewards enquiry into the running of favourite Khayal, but rider Les Jeffordís explanation that the horse made a mistake early on and was never happy on the fast ground was accepted. Runners were further diminished in this race when Morris Piper failed to start.

There was a first win of the season for Amanda Barnett who turned the maiden race into a procession on her own horse Wide Valley Will, in the colours she carried to success in the 1990s on Suez.

Former point to point rider Linda Courtney (maiden name Delve) gave birth to a baby girl, Annabel Louise on Saturday morning.

Membersí: 1, 1, Nimbus Stratus, Miss M McCarthy; 2, Bonny Rigg, Miss V Shaw. Two ran, 8l, 6.35.

Restricted: 1, Snowboy (Ire), J OíRourke; 2, Eagle Hill, Miss R Barrow; 3, Nicks Way, C Heard. Three ran, 2l, dist, 6.55.

Menís Open (Four Miles): 1, Minerís Dance, C Studd; 2, Belarus, C Heard; 3, Young General, R Darke. Five ran, 1/2l, 5l, 8.01.

Gerrard Ladiesí Open: 1, Priestthorn, Miss W Southcombe; 2, Bells Wood, Miss V Lucas; 3, Polden Pride, Mrs L Borradaile. Three ran, Neck, 1/2l, 6.34.

Confined: 1, Defendtherealm, D McKenna; 2, County Bash, Miss L Gardner; 3, Damiens Pride, T Dennis. Six ran, 1 1/2l, 2 1/2l, 6.28.

Maiden: 1, Wide Valley Will, Miss A Barnett; 2, Marquis Max, W Smith; 3, Miss Molly Miggins, R Darke.  Three ran, dist, dist, 6.49.