KELSO racecourse stages its richest meeting of the season to date on Saturday with an exciting £50,000 card coming under orders at 12.25pm.
Hawick’s Glen and Cath Lambert sponsor the feature Mayfield Restaurant (limited handicap) chase – a 2m 1f contest offering a £15,000 prize fund.
Last year’s winner Stagecoach Pearl recently ran gallantly in defeat in the Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase at Aintree and has been entered by the Sue and Harvey Smith team. Another interesting entry is Idarah from the Venetia Williams yard, and Tito Bustillo, a recent winner at Carlisle for Lucinda Russell’s in-form Scottish stable.
Berwick businessman Frank Flannigan has sponsored The Flannigan Skip Hire handicap chase, where Dual Scottish Grand National hero Merigo is set to make his seasonal reappearance.
The 11-year-old, trained at Lockerbie by Andrew Parker for East Lothian owners Ray and Anita Green, won the Ayr marathon in 2010, and was a narrow runner-up in 2011, before reclaiming his crown with a memorable win seven months ago.
“He’s as well forward as we’ve ever had him for this time of the season and his rating of 140 sees him just squeeze in with top-weight,” explained his Dumfriesshire trainer.
“As always, he will take time to get into his stride, but his campaign will again be geared towards Ayr in April,” he added.
Merigo is one of 15 entries which include George Charlton’s three-time Kelso scorer Knockara Beau; the Venetia Williams-trained Relax; Strongbows Legend from the in-form Charlie Longsdon yard and Sue Smith’s improving Lackamon.
Garry Mansell of Premier Traffic Management Ltd is in his 10th year of sponsorship and has received a bumper entry of 39 for the “National Hunt” novices hurdle, off at 12.25pm.
Likely runners include Firth Of The Clyde, third recently at Newcastle, for Ayrshire-based farmer and owner/breeder Robert Goldie. Bonchester Bridge’s Simon Shirley-Beavan is double-handed with ex-point to pointer Rapidolyte De Ladalka and Show Public.
Edinburgh haulage firm Graeme Todd supports the 3m 3f Handicap Hurdle, where amateur rider Will Kinsey has entered Alpha Victor, who recorded a good win at Aintree when last seen out in the spring.
He was also Kinsey’s first runner under rules when successful at Sedgefield in January.
Jedburgh-based Harriet Graham has every chance with Scotswell, who recorded the sixth win of his career at Newcastle recently.
In addition to British racing signing a £40million commercial deal with Betfair to guarantee funding to all 60 UK racetracks over the next five years, Betfair has signed a separate contract with Kelso that will reward stable staff through additional supplementary funds to the best-turned-out horse award, given to stable lads and lasses.
This is extended throughout the Kelso season, adding more than £8,000 to the 81 races staged at the racecourse. The winner of each best-turned-out award on Saturday will receive a cash prize of £100.
John and Fiona Urwin from Foulden continue their support by backing a competitive 2-mile, 2-furlong handicap hurdle.
Alnwick-based Rose Dobbin has her horses in good order and she has three entries in this – Mountskip, Oscar Stanley and Snooker. Glasgow handler Jim Goldie has Another for Joe, who has been running well on the flat in recent months, entered.
Dalkeith hotelier, Davy Logan of the Ship Inn, sponsors the novice handicap chase at 1pm.
What A Dream, trained outside Hawick by Willie Amos, aims to go one better, having finished second three times last season. Ballybanks, from Robert Johnson’s Newcastle yard, has already been second at Kelso and Sedgefield this term.
The last race is sponsored by the Simon family from Gosforth in Newcastle, in memory of national hunt enthusiast Stuart Simon. Lucinda Russell may let Lucky Sunny bid for a hat-trick, following wins at Hexham in October and Perth in August.
Freddie Brown, owned and bred by Kelso racecourse chairman Johnny Jeffreys, could make his 12th appearance at the track where he has won once and consistently finished in the frame.
Racegoers can take advantage of a new bus service, with Telford’s coaches organising special pick-ups at Langholm, Hawick (three stops), Denholm and Jedburgh.
The service will also run for next month’s meetings on Sunday, December 9, and Saturday, December 29. Bookings are being taken through Telford’s coaches on 01387 375677 where further information on pick-up points can also be found.
Gates open at 10.25am, with the first race off at 12.25pm.