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Robert McCarthy, the huntsman of the Percy, was the undisputed winner of a national hornblowing competition held at the Horn & Hound Ball at Cheltenham racecourse on Saturday, 25 April.

Ten huntsmen, both professional and amateur, travelled from their different packs around the country to take part in the competition sponsored by Horse & Hound.

Participants were judged by Nigel Peel — master and huntsman of the North Cotswold — and Capt Ian Farquhar MFH (Duke of Beaufort’s), on their ability to blow “gone away” and “going home”.

Making their decisions from behind the stage — where they were not aware of the order of the competitors — they were unanimous in their decision of the winner.

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The selection of the runner-up was not quite so clear-cut, with Tony Holdsworth — a former winner and huntsman of the Duke of Beaufort’s — and David Every (Park Beagles) being invited to blow again, with Holdsworth victorious.

After his win, McCarthy told H&H: “I am surprised to win but am delighted to take the cup back to Northumberland, which, looking at the previous winners, appears to be the furthest it has travelled.”

McCarthy, who is now in his 10th season as huntsman of the Northumberland pack, was presented with the prestigious Horse & Hound Challenge Cup. The cup was first awarded in 1952, and previous winners include Captain Ronnie Wallace, Alastair Jackson and Tony Wright.

Both the winner and the runner-up also received engraved nickel hunting horns.

The ball, which was attended by more than 400 guests, was being held to help raise funds for the Hunt Staff Benefit Society (HSBS).

The HSBS is a registered friendly society that benefits hunt staff, and offers them a personal pension scheme, into which the members can contribute themselves. Additional funds such as those raised at events, donations directly from hunts themselves and honorary members’ subscriptions also offer additional support to the scheme.