And they’re off at Kelso, with a new deal to benefit stable staff

Musselburgh representative Scott Nisbet took the honours in the ever popular Borders Principal Race last year.
Musselburgh representative Scott Nisbet took the honours in the ever popular Borders Principal Race last year.

KELSO racecourse opens the gates on its new season this Sunday, with the first race of a well-supported card off at 2.20pm.

A new innovation sees Betfair sponsor the afternoon’s two feature races, as well as rewarding stable staff at the Borders track throughout the season.

Through their generous support, prizes for the best turned-out horse in each race have increased and Betfair will also give a hamper to each stable hand.

British Racing signed a £40million commercial deal with Betfair which guarantees funding for all 60 UK tracks over the next five years. The Betfair sponsorship sees more than £4,000 added to the 81 races staged at Kelso throughout the season.

Gates open at noon on Sunday, with Radio Borders – who will broadcast live throughout the day – sponsoring the first of the afternoon’s races.

Last year’s winner and third, Weetfromthechaff (Maurice Barnes) and King’s Chorister (Barry Murtagh), are among the 27 entries for the opening handicap hurdle race.

The feature race of the day, the Betfair Boosts Prize Money at Kelso Handicap Chase, offers a £10,000 total prize fund. Tom Rolfe will be representing Betfair on the day, presenting mementos to winning connections and judging the best turned-out horse.

Scotland’s top jumps trainer, Lucinda Russell, has three entries comprising likely top-weight Lord Redsgirth, Bescot Springs and Eyre Apparent. Hawick’s Alistair Whillans sent out Flying Doctor to win at Sedgefield and Cartmel in August, while Cavers Glen is on the comeback trail as he hasn’t raced since winning at Newcastle in January 2011.

Ray and Anita Green are renowned for their generosity to charitable causes, supporting the NSPCC School Service and Presents Galore. The East Lothian couple sponsor the third race of the day, an intermediate hurdle .

George Bewley has his string in fine form after a recent Perth double and the Hawick trainer has entered South Leinster and Teerie Express. Hannah Jacques has already won at Cartmel during the summer for the M S Borders Racing Club and Nicky Richards saddled her to finish second at Bangor last month.

John and Liz Elliot of Langholm are sponsoring the handicap hurdle to celebrate their ruby wedding.

They have been rewarded by a very competitive field in the fifth race where Penrith-based Dianne Sayer, a loyal supporter of Kelso, is represented by the dual-purpose mare Talk Of Saafend.

Hawick handler Alison Hamilton has pencilled in an entry for her ex-point-to-pointer Some Lad, who showed some promise over hurdles.

Betfair’s second race, the Betfair Commits £40million to British Racing, is a very competitive looking juvenile hurdle, featuring some exciting recruits to the National Hunt scene.

Moidore, bred by the Queen and a winner on the flat at Hamilton recently, could make his hurdling debut for John Quinn, who has also entered Market Rasen scorer Red Tyke. Donald McCain is another double-handed trainer, with Halogen and Counsel.

David Meek of the Fleet Bar in Eyemouth is a regular sponsor at Kelso and he once again returns with a large party from the very popular Eyemouth venue. Festival King, owned by Ray Green and trained at Capheaton by Pauline Robson, is ready for action again after missing last season due to a knee injury. Robert Johnson, whose Newcastle stables were right in the middle of the recent floods that swept Tyneside, is responsible for Ballybanks, who was second over fences at Sedgefield in August.

Tony Love, proprietor of City Roofing (Edinburgh) Ltd, has sponsored the final race on the card – a competitive bumper.

This is the fourth year that City Roofing and Balerno Bowling Club have combined to bring a party to Kelso’s opening meeting of the season and their enthusiastic support has been rewarded with a large entry.

Jockey Harry Haynes and trainer Malcolm Jefferson both had winners at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals last season and the pair team up with Enchanted Garden. Lucy Normile’s Rinnagree Rosie already has decent bumper form and could be one to watch.

John Smiths have again agreed to provide the prizes for the ever-popular Border Principals flat race which will precede racing at 1.30pm.

The three-furlong dash looks even more competitive than ever, with strong contenders from a range of Borders towns including Kelso and Galashiels, while Musselburgh bids to retain the perpetual Border Principal trophy.