by Brian & Gill Armstrong

The West Somerset Vale Hunt held its annual point-to-point meeting at Cothelstone, near Taunton, on Sunday. The course had been watered and 74 horses contested the eight races. Highlights included a first-ever win for 20-year-old Wembdon, near Bridgwater, rider Jo Buck and a 100th career success for Nick Mitchell.

The opening Hunt race went to Urban Hunter who asserted after the last to provide rider Jo Buck with her first-ever winner. Urban Hunter is owned by Sylvia Lindley, Daphne Lewes, Daphne Chelton, Mary White and Dinah Little, all from the Quantocks, and is trained by Dinahís daughter, Anna Bucknall, at Bagborough just a few hundred yards from the Cothelstone course.

Gutsy Dalton and James Young led from three out to take the Restricted race. Gutsy Dalton is trained at Broomfield by Jamesí wife Laura and was a first-ever winner for Sampford Arundel, near Wellington, owners Roland Milton and Valerie Rowe who bought the horse privately from Noel Chance last summer.

Porlock Hill turned the Mixed Open into a procession for an easy win under Neil Harris in a fast time. This was a fourth course success for Porlock Hill who is trained at Dulverton by Jeremy Scott for staunch Chelsea fan Gary Lever. Porlock Hill seems to go on any ground and is one to look out for during the rest of the season.

The Novice Riders Intermediate race went to St Helier and Robert Stephens, 19, who led throughout the last half mile and held the challenge of Knock Star. This was a real family success, as Claraís Pride is trained at Chepstow by Robertís father David and owned by his grandfather Owen. St Helier has recovered well from muscle injuries sustained in his last run at Holnicote in February.

The Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club Members' race was won for the second year running by the Polly Curling-trained Hylters Chance. This was a fourth course success for Hylters Chance, who is owned by North Curry farmer John Hebditch, Jilly Cook of Wiveliscombe, Devon & Somerset Staghounds MFH Maurice Scott and Minehead vet Phil Browne. Connections were keen to praise rider Colin Heard who raced on a strip of the horseís favoured fast ground on the inside of the course.

Division One of the Open Maiden race was divided on the day. Part One went to Tinder Box, owned and ridden by Tabitha Cave and trained by her mother Penny. Tinder Box has recovered well from injuries sustained to his near hind when caught on wire at the Caveís Sherborne home. Derosa got up on the run-in to take Part Two under 20-year-old Robbie McCarthy who works in Liam Corcoranís Kingsbridge livery stable. Derosa is one of two horses owned and trained by Elizabeth Scott whose familiar emerald green and yellow colours have been carried by such good horses as Gay Tarquin during the last 30 years.

The closing Open maiden race Division Two went to Askers Jack, trained at Askerswell near Bridport by Graham Foot who bought the horse from Miranda Roberts at Ascot Sales in 2001. This was a 100th point-to-point winner for Nick Mitchell, 33, assistant trainer to Robert Alner. Nick recalled that his first winner was on Grand Hussar in the Tedworth 4 mile Open at Larkhill in 1986, while his first winner for Graham was aboard Belmont Beauty at Clyst St Mary in 1996.