Christmas jumpers lining up for the fence-tive season

Harry The Viking, on the way to victory last year, ridden by Selkirk's Rachael McDonald (picture by Alan Raeburn).
Harry The Viking, on the way to victory last year, ridden by Selkirk's Rachael McDonald (picture by Alan Raeburn).

Bring your Christmas jumper jumping! That’s the message from the team at Kelso Races, where the next action takes place this Sunday.

The Persimmon Homes Scottish Borders National Handicap Steeplechase is set to have a festive theme and take place amid wintry weather.

It boasts £115,000 of prize money for the seven-race programme.

Each racegoer who dons a Christmas jumper to attend the races will qualify for a free racecard, normally costing £2.50.

Kelso Races will also donate £1 to the Injured Jockeys Fund, whose representatives are currently baking cakes for the track’s charity tea room, for each racecard that is given away free of charge.

And racegoers are likely to be glad of their woolly jumpers – because the forecast is for a chilly weekend.

Jonathan Garratt, managing director of Kelso Racecourse said: “The track is in fantastic condition. The going is officially good – good to soft in places – and we have a lovely covering of grass.

“While there is a risk to racing from cold weather at this time of year, we couldn’t be in a better position in terms of coping with lower temperatures.”

Trainer Sandy Thomson and owner Jim Beaumont are chasing a record-breaking fourth straight win in the feature race, the £50,000 Persimmon Homes Scottish Borders National.

The pair won last year’s renewal with Harry The Viking – ridden by Selkirk jockey Rachel McDonald – and the horse could be having his career farewell as tries for back-to-back wins.

Sandy and Jim also scored in successive years with Neptune Equester in 2014-15.

Dancing Shadow, trained in Devon by Victor Dartnall, has had this race marked in his diary since winning Musselburgh’s marathon event last season. He’s an eye-catching entry and likely to carry top-weight.

The £30,000 Scotty Brand Veterans Chase always attracts a field of popular chasers and, this year, the entries have come from far and wide – with only Micky Hammond’s Dedigout and Malcolm Jefferson’s hat-trick seeking Sun Cloud flying the flag for the north.

At his best, the Rebecca Curtis-trained O’Faolains Boy was a top performer, landing the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014. He looks just the type to run well.

The first race on the programme, the Family Blackshaw Memorial Novices Hurdle, has attracted a huge field of entries, including Inniscastle Lad, who carries the famous silks of Red Rum.

He’s one of three entries for Donald McCain, whose late father trained the triple Grand National hero.

A small but select group of young chasers is expected to contest the Paris Pike Novices Steeplechase and it won’t be a surprise if they all go on to win good races.

Rose Dobbin hinted this could be the target for Jonniesofa after her Grade 2 winning hurdler returned from a lengthy absence to score on his chasing debut at Carlisle in October.

The third race is named in honour of Alan Clydesdale, a regular Kelso visitor who brought large groups to enjoy the races. James Ewart has been among the winners recently and he is double-handed with Bering Upsun and Charmant, both of whom have chances.

Lucy Alexander has recently returned to action after injury. She may have the pick of three runners entered by her father, the trainer Nick Alexander, in the final race of the day – the Kristofferson Carpets & Flooring Novices Hurdle.

After Sunday, the next race meeting at Kelso is scheduled to take place on December 29.