High-grade field for Kelso steeplechase

Last year�'s winner of Kelso's EDF-ER Handicap Steeplechase, One For Arthur, who also won the 2017 Grand National.
Last year�'s winner of Kelso's EDF-ER Handicap Steeplechase, One For Arthur, who also won the 2017 Grand National.

Despite the absence of One For Arthur, last season’s Grand National winner, Kelso’s EDF-ER Steeplechase has attracted a high-quality entry of 12 horses.

The £22,500 steeplechase is currently scheduled to be the third of six races staged this Saturday, although course officials have indicated it’s possible that one or more races could be divided to create a seven or eight-race card.

The feature race of the day, the EDF-ER Steeplechase, was the intended to mark the reappearance of One For Arthur. Unfortunately, Lucinda Russell’s stable star has been sidelined by a minor tendon injury and will now rested until next season.

However, racegoers will still be treated to a quality renewal of the valuable staying race, with entries including the Paul Nicholls-trained pair As De Mee and Vicente, Sue Smith’s Wakanda and the popular Houblon des Obeaux, trained by Venetia Williams.

While Lucinda Russell is not represented in the big race, she could gain compensation with Big River in the Clifford & Martin Firth Memorial Novices’ Steeplechase. Already a three-time winner at Kelso, Big River carries the colours of Two Black Labs and the Borders lady behind the name is Deborah Thomson – one of the Two Golf Widows responsible for Grand National hero One For Arthur.

Possible opposition could come in the form of Modus – twice placed in the Festival Bumper at Cheltenham.

The first race on the programme, currently scheduled for 2.25pm, is the Ian Anderson Memorial Maiden Hurdle race which, having attracted 33 entries, is one of the races which could possibly divide.

One of the most fascinating entries is Cool Mix, trained by Iain Jardine, who is currently in Australia overseeing Nakeeta’s bid for glory in the Melbourne Cup.

Cool Mix was a cracking second in last season’s bumper at Ayr on Scottish National day, a race won by none other than Sprinter Sacre a few years ago.

Celebrating a name synonymous with steeplechasing in the Borders, the Sir Maxwell Harper Gow Memorial Handicap Hurdle is now in its fifth year. Dianne Sayer won this race last year with Cool Baranca and she bids to keep the prize in Cumbria with her veteran gelding Endeavor. Lucy Alexander has already been booked by her father Nick for the ride on Jet Master, a winner at Perth last month for his Kinneston connections.

World Horse Welfare will be the principle beneficiaries of the Bruce Farms Handicap Steeplechase, as the sponsors will be supporting the charity on-course.

Charlie Longsdon had a runner in last weekend’s American Grand National Hurdle and he has pencilled in Fly Home Harry, a close second recently at Fontwell. Maurice Barnes is represented by Flying Jack, who has been in decent form at Hexham during the summer and autumn.

The final race on the programme, the McConnell O’Hara Memorial Handicap Hurdle, is another that could divide, having attracted 33 entries. The race, which has attracted entries from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, is sponsored by a group of keen racing enthusiasts who have been attending Kelso regularly since 1996.

Donald McCain is a great supporter of Kelso and his stable conditional rider, Lorcan Murtagh, is likely to be aboard either Heaven Scent or Irish Hawke.

Rose Dobbin has her eye on the race as she has a total of five entries, Classical Sound, Final Fling, Just Chilly, Lady London and Professor Plumb.

The going for the meeting is currently good, good-to-soft in places, and looks sure to be well supported by trainers as well as racegoers.

In the event of race divisions, amended race times are due to be published at noon tomorrow (Friday).