Ballabriggs set for Kelso warm-up to Aintree

News 27/03/09 Lucinda Russell horse trainer at the South Kilduff horse training centre near Kinross
News 27/03/09 Lucinda Russell horse trainer at the South Kilduff horse training centre near Kinross

GRAND National victor Ballabriggs heads to Kelso on Saturday to contest the totepool Premier Chase.

Following a racecourse gallop at Haydock, Donald McCain’s gelding will run at Kelso en route to defending his 2011 Aintree title.

His main rivals in the £20,000 race include Keith Reveley’s Benny Be Good, the Paul Nicholls-trained Aerial and Malcolm Jefferson’s According To Pete.

The Grade 2 totepool Premier Hurdle was won last year by the Lucinda Russell-trained Bold Sir Brian, who holds an entry for the Jewson Novice Chase at the Cheltenham Festival this month.

Top-rated entry is Captain Conan, a Grade 1 winner at Sandown in January and trained by Nicky Henderson, who saddled a treble at Kelso’s last meeting.

Bury Parade, trained just a few miles away near Jedburgh by Rob Bewley, bids for a hat-trick after scoring twice at Hexham late last year.

The opening race of the afternoon at 1.55pm is a competitive novice hurdle, sponsored by local Kelso joiner Terry Frame.

Hawick-born former Flat jockey Keith Dalgleish is now making a name for himself as a trainer and he has pencilled in Chookie Hamilton from his Carluke base.

Cumbrian trainer Maurice Barnes has entered L’eminence Grise who unseated his rider at the second flight at Kelso’s late December meeting.

The Cyril Alexander Memorial Novices Chase is run in memory of the enthusiastic race-goer who was also an astute businessman and farmer.

Two generations later, his granddaughter Lucy has become Scotland’s first professional jockey and has recently broken a record that has stood for 32 years.

Her 23rd victory of the 2011/12 season aboard the Bruce Mactaggart-trained Red Tanber enabled Lucy to beat the record for the most wins by a female jump jockey in a British season.

Lucy’s grandfather is fondly remembered at Kelso and her father Nicholas, along with his three brothers, will be on hand to make the winning presentations.

Among the contenders are Freddie Brown, owned by Kelso racecourse chairman Johnny Jeffreys, who was a close third at Catterick and seven of his 11 racecourse appearances have come at the Borders course.

Red Tanber has won four times at Musselburgh this winter and Hawick handler Bruce Mactaggart has also entered his home-bred gelding in the Jewson novices’ chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Kelso’s second hunter chase of the season is supported by the Border Common Riding Friends, a fundraising group set up to generate money for the British Heart Foundation in memory of Alisdair Thompson.

Alisdair was a local gamekeeper who died suddenly of heart disease, aged just 39.

The Canal Challenge has been set up by Alisdair’s family and friends to raise money by running and canoeing along the 140 miles of all four Scottish canals.

Denholm-based Alison Hamilton has her yard in great form and she is represented in this race by her Doncaster victor Winterwood.

Harmony Brig won plenty of races for Nicky Richards and he is now enjoying a new lease of life for Vikki Dobbin, who operates from a yard near Penrith.

The concluding handicap hurdle is off at 5.20pm and is set to feature Gleann Na Ndochais, trained near Hawick by Alistair Whillans and boasting winning Kelso form already this term.

Mini Beck represents Greenlaw handler Sandy Thomson and the home-bred gelding has been second three times at his local track.

Kelso will be holding a free Cheltenham Festival preview evening after racing on Saturday.

The event will be held in the downstairs bar of the Tweedie Stand and starts at 5.45pm.

It will be compered by At The Races television presenter Gordon Brown and will feature leading Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell, her partner, former champion jockey Peter Scudamore, tote representative George Primarolo and timeform representative Keith Melrose.