First New Year fixture for Scotland’s best small course

KING KALIUM and Callum Whillans wins at Ayr 3/1/13'Photograph by John Grossick
KING KALIUM and Callum Whillans wins at Ayr 3/1/13'Photograph by John Grossick

KELSO’s opening fixture of the New Year takes place on Sunday, featuring the season’s first hunter chase.

Another exciting seven-race card comes under orders at 12.50pm, with gates open at 10.50am.

The feature race of the afternoon is the ENS Ltd handicap chase, sponsored by Aidan Gunning on behalf of Selkirk-based Electricity Network Solutions.

The race has attracted Gleann Na Ndochchais, a gallant second at Ayr’s New Year meeting, and sure to run another big race for Hawick handler Alistair Whillans.

Jedburgh trainer Harriet Graham was kept busy clerking at Musselburgh over the recent holiday period and she saddles Prince Tam, who led for a long way at Kelso last time.

The first race, off at 12.50pm, is a novice hurdle with a £5,000 prize fund, and is sponsored to celebrate a surprise birthday party at the course.

The race has attracted a large entry with Rhymers Stone, the last leg of a treble in an Ayr bumper in November for Lucinda Russell, poised for his hurdling debut for Melrose owner and racecourse director Geoff Adam. Pass Muster represents Philip Kirby who recently took over the licence at Kate Walton’s Middleham yard.

The trustees of the European Breeders Fund sponsor two races on the card, one jointly with the Thoroughbred Breeders Association (TBA).

This mares novice chase is designed to give owners and breeders an opportunity to increase the value of their mares before retiring them to stud.

Jedburgh’s Tim Finch, who is the local representative of TBA, will be on hand to make the presentations after the race.

Previous EBF chief executive Sam Sheppard, who acts as a consultant for the fund, will make the presentations for the British Stallion Studs supporting British Racing EBF National Hunt novice hurdle, which is a qualifier for the final run at Sandown on Saturday, March 9.

Winning point-to-pointer and recent Kelso third Sorcier is an interesting entry from the Bonchester Bridge yard of Simon Shirley-Beavan. Otterburn stud owner Susan Corbett will be hoping for better luck with Blakemans Law, who pulled up when last seen a fortnight ago

The fifth race, off at 2.50pm, has been jointly sponsored by Live at the Bar which has taken over the running of the racecourse’s Pavilion marquee bar this season – and has boosted turnover with superb organisation and management of the bar and the musical evenings.

King Kalium won at Ayr recently for Donald and Callum Whillans and the Hawick partnership will be hoping for a quick follow-up. Yetholm-based Sandy Forster has two entries in the shape of Nisaal and See The Legend who won at Ayr last February.

Winning chaser Teerie Express could return to fences for Hawick’s George Bewley after a spell hurdling, in the 3.20pm two mile seven furlong handicap chase.

Dukeofchesterwood has shown a good level of form since joining Edinburgh-born Karen McLintock, notably when a close second at Sedgefield last month.

The Country Gentleman’s Association sponsor the Foxhunters at Cheltenham in March and have agreed to sponsor the first three hunter chases at Kelso in 2013.

This is the first time that Kelso has staged a January hunter chase and it has attracted a quality line-up for the first hunters chase in the UK.

It features the Mark Hughes-trained Special Portrait, the winner of his last four races in this grade. Jimmy Walton’s Highland Cathedral returns to the scene of his triumph last spring in the Buccleuch Cup.

The Victor Thompson-trained Tommysteel is another with winning hunter chase form at Kelso last spring.

Clerk of the course Hazel Peplinski, head groundsman Brian Meikle and his ground staff team of Logan Knox and David Greer, have done a tremendous job of getting the course back after racing over Christmas and the team at Kelso have been rewarded by being voted Best Small Racecourse in Scotland & the North-east by the Racegoers Club.