AIKMAN posted a comfortable success in Kelso’s feature race on Sunday, receiving a rousing reception from a bumper crowd supporting the first fixture of the season, writes Hilary Mactaggart.
Trained at Langholm by James Ewart, and ridden by new stable jockey Brian Hughes, the gelding romped home in impressive style to land the NSPCC School Service intermediate hurdle race.
Winner of the Sidney Banks Memorial hurdle race at Huntingdon last season, the seven-year-old is held in high regard by his handler, making a good start to the new term.
With three non-runners, the field was reduced to just three, and Aikman led from pillar to post. Arctic Court, trained by Jim Goldie for race sponsors Ray and Anita Anderson Green, tried to get back on terms, but had to settle for the runner-up slot as Aikman powered up the run-in.
Jockey Hughes was enjoying a victorious debut and joked: “I’ve been second to him plenty, so it was good to be on board this time! He’s a decent horse, and will probably go chasing now.”
That was confirmed by winning trainer James Ewart, who plans to run Aikman over fences at Carlisle in three weeks.
There was a further local success in the second division of the Alexandra Carrington novices handicap hurdle race, won by The Dunion, trained at Bonchester by Bob MacDonald.
In the hands of Campbell Gillies, he touched down in front at the final flight and battled gamely up the run-in to hold the challenge of Lucinda Russell’s Diamond Jewel.
“We felt we had him spot-on,” explained MacDonald, “and I think the tongue-tie helped him.”
Kelso’s new season came under orders on “family day” with the 12-runner Sunday Mail handicap hurdle race.
Cumbrian trainer Maurice Barnes – who rode Rubstic to his 1979 Grand National victory – repeated his 2010 success to take the spoils, this time with Weetfromthechaff. The 12-1 chance, ridden by Michael McAlister, held the challenge of Lawgiver by one-and-a-half lengths.
The ex-Italian trained Kie enjoyed a runaway victory, on his hurdling bow, in the Urwin Second Half Century juvenile hurdle race, with the rest of the field battling to get back on terms.
The 50-1 shot still had a 12-length advantage at the penultimate flight, and made every yard of the running, to take the spoils under Lee Edwards.
“He’s not an easy horse, because he pulls very hard,” explained Wolverhampton trainer Frank Sheridan, “and I just told Lee to let him get on with it.”
Mica Mika finished runner-up, with Tim Easterby’s sole runner Residence and Spa in third.
Eight went to post in the Isle of Skye Blended Scotch Whisky handicap chase, quickly reduced to seven when Ngong Hills crashed out at the first.
Copper’s Gold and Star Beat landed together at the last, with the latter going on to win by eight lengths under Graham Lee.
The well-fancied Rossini’s Dancer, who made a bad blunder at the first, ran on to take third.
Uttoxeter victor Endeavor made it two on the trot to take the first division of the Alexandra Carrington novices’ handicap hurdle race for Dianne Sayer and Henry Brooke.
He stuck on bravely up the run-in to hold Barliffy by a head, with Nisaal taking third for Yetholm trainer Sandy Forster.
Jockey Henry Brooke completed a double when riding The Weatherman to an impressive success in the concluding the City Roofing Ltd bumper.
The 5-2 fav, trained by Donald McCain, powered home ahead of Mitchell’s Way.
The grey, Barry the Cracker, relinquished his lead with a bad mistake at the penultimate fence, in the Radio Borders handicap chase, which went to Super Ally, trained at Lockerbie by Andrew Parker.
Overnight rain resulted in 14 non-runners across a well-supported eight-race card, but failed to detract from an excellent afternoon’s sport.
National Hunt racing was preceded by a 14-strong Borders Principals race, won by the well-supported Musselburgh representative, Scott Nisbet.
Riding Jack Daniels, he held the challenge of Lauder’s Ian Dick, with Tracy McNaughton from Edinburgh in third.
Runner-up Dick quipped: “I thought I just about had him – if only it had been a bit further!”
This year’s race was restricted to 14 runners, with a 14-stone weight limit.
2.05: WEETFROMTHECHAFF (M. McAlister) 12-1; 2, Lawgiver 12-1; 3, Kings Chorister 8-1. 12 ran. M. Barnes, Cumbria.
2.40: KIE (L. Edwards) 50-1; 2, Mica Mika 11-4; 3, Residence and Spa 7-1. 10 ran. F. Sheridan, Wolverhampton
3.25: STAR BEAT (G. Lee) 11-2 ft fav; 2, Copper’s Gold 13-2; 3, Rossini’s Dancer 4-1 fav. Eight ran. Mrs K. Walton, N Yorks.
3.55: AIKMAN (B. Hughes) 5-4 jt fav; 2, Arctic Court 5-4 jt fav; 3, The Starboard Bow 9-2. Four ran. J. Ewart, Langholm.
4.25: ENDEAVOR (H. Brooke) 6-1; 2, Barliffey 12-1; 3, Nisaal 10-1. 11 ran. Mrs D. Sayer, Cumbria.
5.00: THE DUNION (C. Gillies) 25-1; 2, Dramatic Jewel 11-1; 3, Tinseltown 9-2. 11 ran. R. Macdonald, Hawick.
5.30: SUPER ALLY (T. Murphy) 11-2; 2, Barry the Cracker 16-1; 3, Some Catch 5-1. Eight ran. A. Parker, Lockerbie.
6.00: THE WEATHERMAN (H. Brooke) 5-2 fav; 2, Mitchell’s Way 6-1; 3, Bawn Reagh 5-1. 13 ran. D. McCain, Cheshire.