Cassius and Super Baby head up chase for Happy New Year

KELSO racecourse stages its first meeting of 2012 with a competitive seven-race card on Sunday.

Racing comes under orders at 12.50pm, with Selkirk-based Stark Main sponsoring the afternoon’s feature handicap chase at 2.20pm.

Their support is also a thank you to their hard working staff after being named the UK’s best accountancy practice for 2011.

Hawick trainer Bruce Mactaggart has Grand National-winning jockey Graham Lee booked for Cassius, a previous hurdle winner at the track, while 2009 course and distance scorer Super Baby travels up the A7 from James Ewart’s Langholm stable.

Kelso entrepreneur Mark Hay, well known as owner of the Queen’s Head Hotel and for his mobile bar facility Cheers Bar, celebrates the New Year with a party at the racecourse, which he has combined with sponsorship of the first race, a novice hurdle, off at 12.50.

A massive entry of 33 includes Becausewecan, one of a select band of jumpers leading flat trainer Mark Johnston has in his Kingsley House yard. Borders businessman Geoff Adam could be represented by the Lucinda Russell-trained Rhymers Ha’, who was second on his hurdling debut at Kelso’s final fixture of 2011

The EBF National Hunt Hurdle – a qualifier for the final at Sandown – has attracted a very competitive field.

It’s good to see young James Reveley back in action after his Boxing Day spill and he has several booked rides including Crowning Jewel for his father Keith. Mini The Minx represents Hawick handler Donald Whillans, whose Shadow Boxer landed a massive gamble at Newcastle recently.

The European Breeders Fund together with the Thoroughbred Breeders Association have jointly combined to sponsor a mares novice chase, the second race on the card, at 1.20pm.

The race is designed to give owners and breeders an opportunity to increase the value of their mares before retiring them to stud.

Susan Corbett, who also runs the Girsonfield Stud in Otterburn, had her first winner under rules with Definite Appeal at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day and she has entered her mare Claresburn in this. Irish trainer Stuart Crawford has also pencilled in Streamtown, who was fourth at Kelso last April.

Sale & Partners, responsible for the management for the Border track longer than MD Richard Landale cares to remember, is sponsoring the two-mile six furlong handicap hurdle race.

The race has attracted significant local interest.

Alistair Findley is due to ride Charming Knight for his mother Jane Walton, while there is another family connection with Ewan Whillans set to partner Dundock for his Hawick trainer father Alistair. Charming Knight was third at Hexham before Christmas, but Dundock hasn’t raced since finishing third at Perth in May 2010.

Willie Amos sends Billsgrey from his Hawick stable to contest the 3.20pm handicap chase over three miles one furlong.

Harry Hogarth’s horses have yet to start firing, but ex-Irish hurdler and hunter chaser Mister Bloom has slipped to a very tempting mark as he reverts to regulation fences.

Ray and Anita Green have kindly stepped in to sponsor the concluding bumper at 3.50.

The Kevin Ryan-trained Flaming Arrow, by Sadler’s Wells, was only beaten a short-head on his debut at Wetherby in December and wasn’t disgraced in a listed bumper at Cheltenham on New year’s Day, may be one to watch in this race while Wolf Shield, by King’s Theatre, is an interesting newcomer from George Moore’s Middleham base.