A NEW season at Kelso opened on Sunday with a new-look course and a great afternoon’s racing.
Work throughout the summer has seen two completely separate tracks, an altered run-in and portable fences, with just one permanent fence – the sole open ditch.
Jockey Tom Scudamore who rode the afternoon’s first winner, echoed the sentiments of his colleagues, describing the changes as “absolutely fantastic”. He enthused: “The course rode really well, and the ground is like a carpet.”
Scotland’s only professional female jockey, Lucy Alexander, has already established herself as a force to reckon with, and the Fife rider completed a quick-fire double at the track.
Her first success came aboard course specialist Or De Grugy, trained by her father, Nick.
The gelding confirmed his love of Kelso to record a fifth course success to head the Fleet Bar Eyemouth handicap chase, where 10 went to post.
Only 15 of the usual 17 fences were jumped in the race – low sun saw the second from home omitted.
The winner was previously trained by Sue Bradburne, who has now joined forces with Nick Alexander.
Just half-an-hour later, Lucy was back in the winner’s enclosure when bringing home the Jim Goldie-trained newcomer, Caledonia, to win the concluding City Roofing Ltd National Hunt flat race.
The well-bred winner – a half-brother to decent chaser De Soto – headed a wide open bumper.
Another jockey to complete a winning double at the meeting was Jason Maguire.
Aboard Red Tyke, he got the verdict by a neck in a photo-finish in the Betfair Commits £40 Million To British Racing juvenile hurdle.
In an exciting tussle to the line, Fine Kingdom finished second with Hawick jockey Wilson Renwick riding Asteroid Belt to take third.
The John Quinn-trained winner is in great form, having won four of his last five outings.
“He was pricking his ears and not doing a lot in front, but he kept on again when the other horse came at him,” said winning jockey Jason Maguire.
Danny Cook, who rode runner-up Fine Kingdom, picked up a two-day ban for use of the whip.
Maguire posted his second success when landing the first of the afternoon’s chases, which saw three in line at the post.
In a thrilling finish, Lively Baron landed the Betfair Boosts Prize Money At Kelso handicap chase.
Southern raider War Singer justified favouritism to head the opening Radio Borders Handicap Hurdle, providing David Pipe with his first training success at the Borders track.
“He works like an 80s flat horse at home, but had been a bit disappointing over hurdles,” explained travelling head lad Bob Hodge, “but Tom said that he jumped and travelled well today.”
Hawick jockey Callum Whillans partnered Grand Diamond to take second, with Glasgow handler Jim Goldie also saddling the third-placed Lillioftheballet.
Jet Master, making his debut for Nick Alexander’s Fife stable, developed a commanding lead in the NSPCC School Service intermediate hurdle, with a 20-length advantage over his rivals on the second circuit.
The trailblazer was reeled in as they approached the penultimate flight by eventual winner, Maggio, who lost his maiden tag to take the spoils for Irish trainer Patrick Griffin – celebrating his first Kelso win.
“This race has been the plan for Maggio ever since he came in, “explained the trainer’s son, James. “He´s rated 127 and was getting weight from most of his rivals. He’ll now go for the Colin Parker Chase at Carlisle or the second season chase at Down Royal,” he added.
Mwaleshi cruised home for a comfortable 15-length success in the John & Liz Elliot Ruby Wedding Novices’ handicap hurdle race.
The winner was making a victorious debut for Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan, who watched the race from Longchamp.
“Mwaleshi did so well and he’s in again at Carlisle next Friday,” explained Brian Toomey, representing the winning trainer.
Some Lad produced an impressive performance in the hands of Jason Maguire to finish third for Denholm permit-holder Alison Hamilton.
The popular Borders Principals race was rescheduled to the end of the afternoon’s racing with the 2012 title going to Lauder’s Right Hand Man Iain Dick, who was the town’s 2011 Cornet.
Racing returns to Kelso on Saturday, October 20.