by Lee Glanville

Despite an early course inspection, and heavy showers throughout the morning, the Dart Vale Harriers went on to have a successful meeting at Buckfastleigh, the highlight of the card being the £300-to-the-winner West Country Champion Chase, the area's feature race.

This mixed open race is open to winners only and Richard Kelvin-Hughes' horse Hobbycyr bounced back to form to beat a top class field under Polly Gundry to land the spoils. The winner also qualifies for both the Land Rover men's and the Gerrard ladies' hunter chase finals.

Otherwise it was something of a Nick Williams/Richard Barber benefit day. Richard Barber's stable jockey won three races and was second in two others. He dominated the maiden races taking the first division on Wild Chimes, who had previously run well at Ottery St Mary.

He went on to score in the next race, Division Two, on Far Too Crowded. He just pipped a horse highly thought of by local trainer Gordon Chambers, On His Toes (Richard Woollacott), who has shown much promise but been luckless on the course so far.

Williams had to take second place to Ashley Farrant in division three of the maiden on Euwiluwil - a name guaranteed to get any commentator's tongue in a twist - but was back in the winners' enclosure in the Intermediate on board Lord of the Mist, with some smart performers behind him - Father Mansfield (Caroline Prouse) and Teninarow (Farrant).

As Gundry took the mixed open, Williams was again in second spot on Ease the Pressure - and what cracking horses were in this line up. Third and fourth places went to Red Native and Rimpton Boy, second, third and fourth trained by Richard Barber from his base at Seaborough in Dorset.

Sandy Duff, also trained near the course by Nicky Frost, had proved headstrong when in the ladies at Buckfastleigh last time out, on much faster ground, but ran well enough for many to realise that a win was only a matter of time.

With the ground becoming more tacky, drying out as the day went on, Mary McCarthy rode her horse to win the Confined ahead of another inmate of Gordon Chambers' stable, Province (Richard Woollacott).

Currently leading the area riders' table with 19 wins, Ashley Farrant made it 20 with Vivid Imagination, trained by David Pipe. Vivid Imagination had managed to pick up a members' win at Ottery, after his maiden victory on this course, so was recording a hat-trick.

Members: 1, Baron Ridge, R Darke; 2, Bengal Bullet, Miss S Gaisford. Three ran, 3/4 l, 6.43.

Open Maiden Div One: 1, Wild Chimes, N Williams; 2, Biltons Nap, D Jacob; 3, Sure How Bad, L Tibbatts.15 ran, 3l 10l, 6.45.

Open Maiden Div Two: Far Too Crowded, N Williams; 2, On his Toes, R Woollacott; 3,Polar Bright, D Edwards. 12 ran, 1l, 10l, 6.33.

Div 3: Euwiluwil, A Farrant; 2, Noble Action, N Williams; 3, Josanjamic, L Heard. 14 ran, 4l, 15l, 6.34.

Intermediate: 1, Lord of the Mist, N Williams; 2, Father Mansfield, C Prouse; 3, Teninarow, A Farrant. 13 ran, 15l, 4l, 6.27.

Mixed Open (West Country Champion Chase): 1, Hobbycyr, Miss P Gundry; 2, Ease The Pressure, N Williams; 3, Red Native, A Farrant. Seven ran, 10l, 10l, 6.29.

Confined Hunts: 1, Sandy Duff, Miss M McCarthy; 2, Province, R Woollacott; 3, Travelling Jack, A Charles Jones. Six ran, 10l, 10l, 6.33.

Restricted: 1, Vivid Imagination, A Farrant; 2, Jolie Roslin, Mrs F Vigar; 3, Knight of the North, Miss E Burrow. 13 ran, only three finished. Dist, dist, 6.33.