AFTER the loss of four meetings, racing makes a welcome return to Kelso for its popular Cheltenham trials fixture today, writes Hilary Mactaggart.
The meeting, featuring the prestigious Victor Chandler Morebattle hurdle race, comes under orders at 1.40pm, with gates open at 11.40am.
Another quality race is on the cards for the Morebattle hurdle race, which last year saw hot favourite Zaynar beaten in a thrilling finish by Quewetwo, ridden by Hawick jockey Wilson Renwick.
For the second year running, Victor Chandler sponsors the 2m 2f feature race, which is off at 3.50pm.
Donald McCain jnr has entered his champion hurdle candidate Peddlers Cross. Last season’s Festival 2m 5f grade one novice hurdle hero missed recent engagements due to the cough and is joined in the entries by stablemate Overturn, runner-up in Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle and winner of last year’s Northumberland Plate. Tom Tate’s Cheltenham-bound youngster Music Of The Moor is among the entries as well as former champion hurdle winner Sublimity.
Timeform, Kelso’s race programme printers, sponsor the fourth run of the seven-race card, the supporting feature chase, which is off at 3.15pm. Nigel Townsend from the company will be presenting winning connections with their mementos of this novice chase, which has seen a select entry.
The in-form Howard Johnson yard has a host of top two-mile novice chasers and he could have the pick of Monogram and King O’ The Gypsies. Nicky Richards has entered recent Ayr winner Premier Sagas, while Pauline Robson could go with Ray Green-owned Humbie.
Lloyd Vaderstand are in their second year of sponsorship at the racecourse and Eddie Allan, principal dealer at the Lloyd dealership in Kelso, will be entertaining a party throughout the day and be on hand to make the winning presentations in this competitive chase.
Always Right, a runner on his last outing at Kelso in October, has been given an entry by the in-form John Wade. George Charlton’s Heez A Steel is another that has plenty of experience of the Tweedside track.
A group of Kelso annual members have contributed towards the prize money for the opening novice hurdle race (1.40pm). Every year they have the opportunity of becoming a race sponsor for the day and about 40 will enjoy the view of the finishing straight from their own box and celebrate with winning connections after the race.
A huge entry in the opening race may be the ideal stepping stone for the progressive Alistair Whillans-trained Lady Bluesky, scheduled to run at the recently abandoned Ayr meeting. Sandy Forster has also been waiting for a suitable race for ex-Flat recruit Nisaal to make his debut over hurdles.
The second hurdle race on the card is sponsored by Oswald Hughes (Electricals) Ltd. Proprietor Stuart Tiffin will be making the winning presentations of this competitive hurdle which could see Winter Alchemy from Nicky Richards’ yard make a bold show, while current leading Scottish trainer Jim Godie has entered Circus Clown and recent Musselburgh runner-up Pokfulham.
Another possible is the Donald MacCain-trained Rawaaj who has proved extremely consistent this year.
Connolly’s Red Mills produce premium high-performance equine feeds and back Kelso’s first hunter chase of the season.
Last year’s victor Robbers Glen could try and triumph again for veteran pilot Val Jackson, who has been riding winners since 1977. Simon Shirley-Beavan may be tempted to run one of his two Friars Haugh winners – Minouchka or Quotica de Poyans who both won at the Kelso track last year. Grand National winning trainer John Leadbetter has pencilled in Another Rum who recently won the first point-to- point of the year at Alnwick.
The final race of the day is supported by The European Breeders Fund and Doncaster Bloodstock Sales. This mares-only two-mile bumper is a qualifier for a £20,000 final to be held at Sandown Park on March 12. Sam Sheppard, representing EBF, will present winning connections with their mementos.
Shelley Johnstone’s Supreme Dawn was due to make her debut at the recently-abandoned Ayr meeting, so this could be the ideal alternative for the Langholm raider. Tim Easterby is also considering running his Alderbrook mare Serenitatis who was second at Newcastle last month.
To help raise funds for The House that Jack Built and The Injured Jockeys’ Fund, Kelso racecourse has initiated a silent auction for the public to bid on a lifesize cardboard cutout of champion jockey A. P. McCoy. To enter the competition bidders should check the website and send an email with their full name and bid to firstname.lastname@example.org.