KELSO’S richest meeting of the season drew a bumper crowd and produced some thrilling racing on Sunday, with Borders owners claiming their fair share of the spoils.
Although the feature John Smith’s Scottish Borders National went south of the border, Scots horses accounted for five of the afternoon’s seven races.
Blackwater King made amends for a surprise defeat on his hurdling debut at Sedgefield when he romped home to a comfortable 20-length success in the opening Border Facilities novices’ hurdle race.
Trained by Donald McCain for St Boswells owner Paul Rooney, the four-year-old ex-Irish pointer powered home under Jason Maguire.
“We got the tactics wrong last time as we held on to him and he got caught,” said Rooney. “Jason said he doesn’t like being in amongst horses.”
Fresh from his 125-1 victory at Hexham, Gymdoli produced another impressive performance to finish runner-up for Selkirk permit-holder Rayon Nixon and his wife Susan, who also bred the five-year-old.
The second race on the card produced a second Scottish success when Rival D’Estruval landed the Scotty Brand Paris Pike novice chase in equally convincing style for Haddington owners Ray and Anita Anderson Green.
The Pauline Robson-trained gelding jumped soundly throughout and never looked in danger.
The plan is to keep him fresh for the National Hunt chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
“He won’t run again until then,” explained Ray Green.
“He goes exceptionally well fresh, and everything about him suggests he’ll stay.”
There was a thrilling finish to the Tapeta & James Ewart Racing handicap hurdle race, with Rhymers’ Ha getting the better of Anna’s Arch by a short head.
The winner carries the colours of racecourse director Geoff Adam, and provided Milnathort trainer Lucinda Russell with another success to this season’s impressive tally.
The stable is in great form, and also accounted for the third-placed Livvy Inn, ridden by Jedburgh jockey Grant Cockburn.
“Campbell Gillies rode Rhymers Ha last season and said he wanted further,” said Lucinda, “but I think he was riding handily over two miles.”
The £18,000 Persimmon Homes Champion Chase produced another thrilling finish, with 20-1 chance Douglas Julian just holding runner-up Lie Forrit on a run-in extended by the final two fences being omitted due to the low sun.
The winner was ridden by Clovenfords’ jockey Ryan Mania for Yorkshire trainer Sue Smith, who commented: “It’s not easy to find races for him.
“When Henry Oliver rode him he thought he only got 2m4f.
“Omitting the last two fences didn’t help him as he had to gallop all the way to the line, but the heavy ground suits him,” she added.
Lie Forrit produced a pleasing performance for Hawick handler Willie Amos to finish runner-up.
The feature £26,000 John Smith’s Scottish Borders National went to 12-1 chance Mortimer’s Cross, who produced a gutsy display to hold Captain Americo from James Ewart’s Langholm stable by a length.
“He was second here at the end of last season and that’s why we brought him back,” explained winning trainer John Needham.
“He is an out-and-out stayer and he ran well at Fontwell last time.”
Lucematic followed up a victorious bumper debut with a victory at the first time of asking over hurdles.
The six-year-old, trained by Chris Grant for Blainslie owner Pat Stirling, saw off her rivals to take the Kevin Oliver Christmas mares novices’ hurdle race in impressive style in the hands of Ryan Mania.
“She’s a grand mare and she did really well through the summer,” said Grant. “That was a nice race to start off and we will go quietly with her,” he added.
Another well-supported meeting concluded with a fourth Borders success when Rowan Road landed the ENS Ltd National Hunt novices’ handicap hurdle race.
The former winning pointer is trained at Hawick by Iain Jardine for Jedburgh owner Alec Dawson and his daughter Katie Campbell.
“It was pretty low grade, but she did it nicely and saw the trip out well,” said Jardine.
“We’ll hopefully find another wee race for her.”
Racing returns to Kelso later this month, on Saturday, December 29.
RESULTS: 12.25 – BLACKWATER KING (J Maguire) 8-11 fav; 2, Gymdoli 13-1; 3, Phoenix Returns 25-1. 13 ran. D McCain, Cholmondeley.
12.55 – RIVAL D’ESTRUVAL (R McGrath) 8-11 fav; 2, Papamoa 12-1; 3, Saphir River 15-8. Five ran. P Robson, Capheaton.
1.25 – RHYMERS HA’ (G Watters) 5-1; 2, Anna’s Arch 5-2 fav; 3, Livvy Inn 5-1.11 ran. L Russell, Milnathort.
1.55 – DOUGLAS JULIAN (R Mania) 20-1; 2, Lie Forrit 9-4; 3, Knockara Beau 11-10 fav. Six ran. S Smith, Bingley.
2.25 – MORTIMER’S CROSS (Mr P John) 12-1; 2, Captain Americo 5-1; 3, Quacity 11-1, Eight ran. J Needham, Ludlow.
2.55 – LUCEMATIC (R Mania) 15-8 fav; 2, Little Glenshee 3-1; 3, Golden Sparkle 7-2.. Six ran. C Grant, Billingham.
3.25 – ROWAN ROAD (A Lane) 9-2; 2, Almond Court 6-1; 3, Ballybanks 3-1. Five ran. I Jardine, Hawick.