A LANDMARK court case could test the new anti-hunting legislation governing hare coursing.

Well-known racehorse trainer Miles Henry Easterby is facing charges of hunting with dogs in what is believed to be the first case of its kind.

Mr Easterby, also known as Peter, was arrested after an investigation by police into an alleged coursing event.

Mr Easterby, 78, from Habton Grange Farm, Great Habton, near Malton, denied two charges of attending a hare coursing event and allowing the practice on his land, when he appeared at Scarborough Magistrates' Court.

Mr Easterby appeared in court with John Shaw, 54, of Welburn Manor, Welburn, near Kirkbymoorside, and Andrew Lund-Watkinson, 56, of Pine View Lodge, Newton-on-Rawcliffe, near Pickering.

They also faced two charges of allowing hare coursing and allowing the practice on their land.

The defendants pleaded not guilty and the hearing was adjourned until September 24. The three were bailed.

A Countryside Alliance spokesman said: "Those concerned are taking legal advice. We strongly believe that everything on the day was carried out within the framework of the legislation."

It is understood to be the first time anyone has been in court charged with hare coursing since the Hunting Act 2004 came into force.

Before his retirement, Mr Easterby was one of the country's most successful flat and National Hunt trainers.

One of his most famous horses was Sea Pigeon, which won the Chester Cup in 1977 and 1978 and the Ebor Handicap, at York, in 1979.

In 1996, after 46 years in the business, he handed the reins to his son, Tim, who continues to train at Habton Grange.

Hare coursers use greyhounds or lurchers to chase a hare over a field.

Under the act, hare coursing carries a fine of up to £5,000.