BINOCULAR has his sights on Kelso’s major prize on Wednesday, with Nicky Henderson’s 2010 Champion Hurdle winner likely to contest the feature Victor Chandler Morebattle hurdle race.
Henderson plans to run the JP McManus-owned gelding in a race which has previously attracted Triump Hurdle victor Zaynar, and Champion Hurdle contender Peddlers Cross, to complete his Cheltenham preparation.
After the abandonment of Binocular’s intended Sandown target over the weekend, Henderson is considering three possible alternatives for his charge – Wednesday’s Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso, the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, or a trip to Gorwan Park in Ireland.
Kelso racecourse managing director Richard Landale commented: “The prospect of Binocular running in the Victor Chandler Morebattle Hurdle is extremely exciting.
“Donald McCain used the race as a prep for Peddlers Cross last year and he ran a cracker in the Champion Hurdle – so the timing of the race works perfectly with Cheltenham.”
Opposition to Binocular could come from Tap Night, owned by jockey Peter Buchanan’s sister, Jane. Tap Night has been impressive in back-to-back wins at Carlisle and Newcastle, with connections eyeing this as a possible hat-trick target.
Simply Ned is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles this season and Nicky Richards is looking to add this prestigious contest to the tally for his highly-rated Greystoke youngster.
The supporting card has attracted a quality entry, with the first race, a two-mile novice hurdle, off at 1.40pm.
Milnathort trainer Lucinda Russell expects to be represented by the Geoff Adam-owned Rhymers Ha’, who was a cracking second on his hurdling debut over course and distance on December 29.
A group of around 55 of the Kelso Races Annual Members have kindly contributed to the prize money for the opening novice chase.
Beidh Tine Anseo, a winner over hurdles at Kelso last spring, could have his chasing debut in this, while the Donald McCain-trained Chester Lad, who was impressive on his chasing bow at Newcastle recently, could reappear in this for his County Durham owners.
Stuart Tiffin of Oswald Hughes Electricals Ltd has generously sponsored the handicap hurdle race, off at 2.40pm.
Sandy Forster’s Nisaal, a gallant runner-up at Wetherby recently, will be fancied to go one better in this hurdle for his Yetholm yard.
First-time sponsors to Kelso, the Amateur Jockeys Association, support the Amateur Riders handicap chase run over two miles, six-and-half furlongs.
This is in recognition of a memorable 2010/2011 National Hunt season which culminated in Sam Waley-Cohen winning the Gold Cup – the first amateur to do so since Jim Wilson in 1981.
The BHA put aside £30,000 of last season’s amateur prize money which was won against professionals and Sam Waley Cohen was asked to determine the distribution of these funds.
He chose £20,000 to be held by the BHA for investment in amateur rider’s races with Kelso chosen as the first course to receive part of this generous funding in staging this amateur riders chase.
Sarah Oliver, chief executive of the AJA, will be making the winning presentations of this competitive race, which may see Premier Sagas, already the winner of a chase and a bumper at Kelso among the entries, according to his handler Nicky Richards.
Connolly’s Red Mills, the well-known Irish horse feed company, have sponsored the first Hunter Chase of the season at Kelso Races.
Cloudy Lane, who has competed in three Grand Nationals and is now trained by Donald McCain’s wife Sian, may be a possible for this after a good second to Chapoturgeon on his hunter chase debut at Newbury last month.
The final race of the day, off at 4.40pm, is a fillies and mares bumper, jointly sponsored by Doncaster Bloodstock Sales and The European Breeders Fund.
This is a qualifying race for the final at Sandown which is aimed specifically at giving fillies and mares race experience while only taking on their own sex.
Donald McCain’s Doyly Carte carries the colours of the Elite Racing Club and she won comfortably on her first racecourse appearance at Catterick last month. Nicky Richards may enter the well-bred daughter of High Chaparral Isabelle B.