Kelso Racecourse sparkled like a diamond last Saturday, with a programme of small but exceptionally valuable races.
While the quantity of runners was on the slim side, the quality was top notch.
Principal among the jewels on show was Blue Flight, owned by Dundee United director Jimmy Fyffe, who caused an upset when turning over 3/100 favourite Black Corton in the Listed Belhaven Brewery Premier Chase.
Sent off at 7/1, the 18 hands-high gelding is trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and Fyffe said: “He is a lovely big chaser and he might end up being a horse for the Scottish National next month.
“That was only his fourth race over fences and he’s hopefully got a big future.”
Captain Redbeard, from Selkirk, a winner at the previous Kelso meeting, finished third.
Beaten just two lengths, the Stuart Coltherd chaser was disadvantaged by the weights in this Listed Race and ran another fine trial for the Grand National in a month’s time.
Borders-owned One For Arthur, the Grand National hero of 2017, looks likely to go directly to the Aintree without a run, having been withdrawn from the Premier Chase at a late stage.
Trainer Lucinda Russell, who enjoyed a double on the card with Alizee De Janeiro and Bialco, said: “It’s lovely ground and it suited Alizee De Janeiro, but we know Arthur needs it softer. It was a difficult decision to make.”
Alizee De Janeiro gained her fifth course win when grinding out a gutsy victory in the Cyril Alexander Memorial Novices Chase.
Russell added: “She will be retired as a broodmare soon but we’re looking at another race for her here, before that happens.”
Rouge Vif was an all-the-way winner of the Grade 2 Edinburgh Gin Premier Novices’ Hurdle. The first winner at the Borders track for Oxfordshire trainer Harry Whittington, the 7/2 chance saw off Windsor Avenue by four lengths.
Whittington said: “We were going to run in the big race at Kempton last weekend but he trod on a stone. We spotted this nice prize and the owners agreed to go for it. It’s my first visit to the track and everyone’s been very friendly. It reminds me of racing in Australia – we’ll be back.”
Rouge Vif has an entry in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham this month but looks more likely to go to Aintree, where he’ll enjoy the tighter track and fewer undulations.
Black Corton’s trainer, Paul Nicholls, sent three runners to Kelso from his Ditcheat base in the south-west of England. On a day when there was not one winning favourite, two of the Nicholls’ runners were beaten at odds-on.
It was therefore down to Oleg to justify the journey with victory in the opening race on the programme, the Terry Frame Joiners Novices Hurdle.
The next race meeting at Kelso will be broadcast live by ITV on Saturday, March 23. Gates will open at noon.