Cheltenham Gold Cup victor Long Run added to an already impressive prize-pot of over £1.5m when landing the inaugural Ivan Straker memorial chase at Kelso last Thursday.
The dual King George victor – the first Gold Cup winner to run in Scotland – didn’t disappoint an enthusiastic Borders crowd when adding a further £12,500 to his tally with a pleasing performance.
The Nicky Henderson-trained nine-year-old held the challenge of Cleeve Hurdle hero and course specialist Knockara Beau by six lengths.
The 2011 Gold Cup victor had only been in the winner’s enclosure twice since that success and failed to collect in 2013.
“He just needed to get back on track,” explained the Lambourn handler, “and this was a fantastic opportunity.
“The principal objective is the Grand National,” he added.
Selkirk trainer Stuart Coltherd completed a popular double at his local track.
Aintree Foxhunter hero Tartan Snow received a rousing cheer after landing the CGA Foxhunter trial open hunter chase. The 14-year-old, recording his sixth course success, was given a peach of a ride by Hawick jockey Jamie Hamilton, cruising home 20 lengths clear of Moscow Menace, ridden by younger brother Tom.
“I’ll give him at least one more race before going to Aintree again,” said Stuart.
“He won’t go to Cheltenham – he doesn’t stay three and a quarter.”
The first leg of the Coltherd double was a closer affair with Surprise Vendor clinching victory by a short head to post his fourth victory this term in the Kelso Annual Members’ novices’ limited handicap chase, in the hands of Daragh Bourke.
“He was a bit unlucky last week because I think he would probably have won,” said Coltherd, after his charge unseated while to the fore at Carlisle.
“He goes well here – it was his third win at the course,” he added.
A cracking afternoon’s racing came under orders with the opening 12-strong David Merry Farrier novices’ hurdle race where Landecker sprang a surprise 50-1 success.Favourite Rainbow Peak and Master Red were stride for stride at the last, until the latter crashed out, leaving Rainbow Peak challenged in the closing stages by Landecker, who got the verdict in a photo-finish. Lucy Alexander gave Landecker a patient ride, storming up the run-in to take the spoils by a nose.
The third race produced the third photo-finish of the afternoon when Mister Marker got the better of six-times course victor Or De Grugy by a short head in the Amateur Jockeys Association amateur riders’ handicap chase.
Trained in Cumbria by Nicky Richards, and ably ridden by daughter Joey, the top-weight has the Scottish National as a potential target.
In an afternoon packed with exciting finishes, the feature Timeform Morebattle hurdle race was no exception, with Runswick Royal clinching victory by half a length over Upsilon Blue for Northumberland trainer Ann Hamilton. “I had thought about the Martin Pipe for him at Cheltenham but we’ll probably wait for Aintree, explained the trainer’s husband, Ian, who owns the gelding. “The trouble is that there aren’t many races for him,” he added.
A stewards enquiry judged any interference on the run-in as accidental.
Irish raider Knocklayde Expresson landed the concluding EBF Stallions mares bumper in a photo-finish with the Keith Dalgleish-trained Tara Mac.
Racing returns to Kelso on Saturday, March 1.