LOVE is in the air at Kelso races today when the Borders track hosts its Morebattle Hurdle Valentine’s Day meeting.
Feature event of the afternoon is the third of a seven-race card – the BetVictor Morebattle Hurdle, which last year attracted one of the best horses to run at Kelso in a long time, the current Arkle favourite Simonsig.
Orsippus won a Grade 1 event at Aintree in 2010 and represents Northumberland trainer Michael Smith, who saddled a winner for Berwick owner John Stephenson at Catterick on Monday.
Alan King’s Raya Star, the second highest rated horse in the race, has to be respected, having landed last season’s Scottish Champion Hurdle for his Lanarkshire-born trainer.
The first race, at 1.40pm, has been sponsored by agricultural merchants, Lloyds, of Hunters Hall, in Kelso, who have joined up with international company Grimme – market leaders in root crop machinery – to sponsor the £10,000 novice chase.
Jake Greenall has been booked by Mick Easterby for the ride on last month’s easy Sedgefield winner Shadows Lengthen. David Pipe’s Somerset raider Coole Master has an entry at Cheltenham in the National Hunt Chase over four miles.
The Amateur Jockeys Association does indispensable work supporting amateur jockeys in National Hunt racing.
As amateurs, the jockeys cannot collect a percentage of prize money from winning rides, but the money is redistributed to create opportunities for amateur rider races at racecourses.
The AJA has chosen the 2m 7½f handicap chase as one of these opportunities. Sarah Oliver will be in attendance to make the presentations for the race which may well throw up a few pointers for the Kim Muir at Cheltenham. Dual Scottish National winner Merigo may use this as a stepping-stone to a third possible triumph at Ayr in April.
Or De Grugy is well known to Kelso regulars as he has won five chases at the Borders track.
Harry Hill’s family support the fourth race as a thank-you to Harry for all his hard work and have been rewarded with a competitive novice hurdle.
John Quinn landed last year’s Triumph Hurdle with Countrywide Flame and he has another live candidate this season with Calculated Risk. Kevin Ryan’s Flaming Arrow already has decent form over hurdles at Musselburgh.
A group of 40 Kelso annual members have contributed to the prize money for the fifth race, the Watch Racing UK on Sky 432, two-mile, two-furlong handicap hurdle.
Alistair Whillans’ Funky Munky bids to follow up his narrow strike at Catterick last month under the Hawick trainer’s son Ewan. Willie Amos, who also trains outside Hawick, has secured the services of Zander Voy for the first appearance in a handicap for his mare Julia Too.
The Country Gentleman’s Association sponsor the Foxhunters at Cheltenham in March and also support the first three hunter chases at Kelso in 2013.
East Lothian-born Mikey Ennis is on Supreme Builder and the partnership could be joined by Polly Stockton’s Benefit Night who was second at Kelso last month. Highland Cathedral is ridden by Catherine Walton for her step-father Jimmy Walton – a combination which landed last year’s Buccleuch Cup at Kelso.
The European Breeders Fund sponsor the final race on the card.
This mares-only National Hunt flat race is designed to give owners and breeders an opportunity to increase the value of their mares before retiring them to stud.
Flemens Pride bids to build on his impressive debut win last month at Newcastle for Keith and James Reveley.
Nicky Richards-trained mare Brijomi Queen won on this card last year for the MS Borders Racing Club, and would be a popular victor.
The perfect horse-lovers’ gift will be raffled at the racecourse, thanks to an initiative by Philip Kirby Racing. Phil Kirby, one of the leading up-and-coming Northern trainers, is raffling a one year share in the racehorse Grey Command, with all the proceeds of the raffle going to the Injured Jockeys Fund.
Raffle tickets cost £1 and will be available at the course on the day and via www.philipkirbyracing.co.uk
The winner will be drawn in the paddock five minutes before the fourth race at 3.10pm, when Grey Command will be in action.
Racing comes under orders at 1.40pm with gates open at 11.40am.