The long history of skirmishes in the Scottish Borders is due to be honoured in Kelso this coming Sunday, December 9.
Local trainers have assembled a strong team to repel a mighty southern invasion for the £50,000 Persimmon Homes Scottish Borders National.
While Sandy Thomson has prepared the 2016 winner, Harry The Viking, for a further attempt on Kelso’s most valuable autumn prize, Jedburgh-based Harriet Graham will have strong claims with Scotswell.
Sandy Forster hopes to run Lowanbehold and James Ewart has entered Ascot do Bruyere.
The southern army includes representatives from the yards of Fergal O’Brien, Phillip Hobbs, Nigel Twiston Davies, Dan Skelton, Ian Williams and Victor Dartnall, to name just a few.
The northern team can count on support from Penrith-based Nicky Richards, who has two entries including Progress Drive and the Looking Well.
There’s lots of Scottish interest in the first race of the day, an Auction Maiden Hurdle, with the likes of Lucinda Russell, Alistair and Donald Whillans, Jackie Stephen, Mike Smith and Alison Hamilton all represented. Nick Alexander could hold all the aces as the in-form Kinneston handler is triple-handed, with Moores Novelty, Off The Hook and Silk Or Scarlet.
The Paris Pike Novices Steeplechase, the second race on the programme, has produced many classy winners including Seeyouatmidnight in 2015. Kim Bailey has pencilled in Dandy Man, an impressive winner at Kelso in October, while Chris Grant-trained Donna’s Diamond has winning and placed course form over hurdles.
The £30,000 Scotty Brand Veterans’ Steeplechase has attracted a small but select field, including the highly rated Perfect Candidate from the Fergal O’Brien yard, Beeves for Jennie Candlish and Upsilon Bleu for Pauline Robson.
Rebecca Menzies has already booked useful amateur Aaron Anderson for Xpo Universal, following the partnership’s impressive recent win at Carlisle, in the Andersons Award Winning Butcher Handicap Hurdle.
The ex-French Empire De Maulde has shown decent form in three runs since joining Langholm trainer James Ewart and should also go the short-list for many racegoers.
The programme for mares has been developed at Kelso in recent years and the sixth race on the card features the well-bred Madam Cloud, trained by Tim Easterby and owned by great jumping supporter Trevor Hemmings.
There’ll be a festive theme across the venue, as racegoers gather for a pre-Christmas celebration. Visitors can expect to meet a giant Santa on stilts – with plenty of time to tell him what they’d like for Christmas. A jazz band will greet visitors at the entrance with traditional festive tunes.
The first race is due off at noon and the gates will be open from 10am.