Lie Forrit proved a popular and emotional victor of Kelso’s feature £30,000 Royal Caledonian Hunt Veterans’ handicap chase on Sunday.
The gelding was previously ridden by the late Campbell Gillies, who tragically died on holiday in 2012, and carries the colours of his family – grandfather John McNeill, uncle Crawford McNeill and his mother, Lesley Gillies.
Lie Forrit – named after a football expression from a Tranent supporter – received a rousing cheer from an enthusiastic crowd who braved the elements to enjoy another cracking afternoon’s sport.
Posting his second win from three outings over fences this season, Lie Forrit produced a gutsy performance under jockey Peter Buchanan to hold off the challenge of Sandy Thomson’s Harry the Viking, who was far from disgraced in defeat.
The Scottish National is now the intended aim for Lucinda Russell’s charge as the Milnathort trainer explained: “He’s still got the Scottish National as a target, but I’d like to go for another one of these (veterans’ chases), so we might go down to Newbury next.
“I’ve never known a horse like him,” she added. “He’s not flash, but no one can get past him.
“He loves these long-distance chases and this veterans’ series is brilliant for him. When he stood off at the open ditch I knew he was in good form.
“Kelso is a great place – they love horses like him.”
Half-an-hour earlier, the local crowd had further cause for celebration when Shades of Midnight opened his account over timber with an impressive success in the Newcastle Arms Coldstream novices’ hurdle race.
The former bumper winner is trained at Hawick by Donald Whillans for the Borders-based Pottasium Partnership, and was ridden to a two-and-a-quarter-length win by his son, Callum.
The five-year-old, who showed his speed when winning a bumper at Hexham, was victorious on just his third start over hurdles.
“It’s taken a bit of time for the penny to drop over hurdles,” said the winning trainer, who was in front of the stewards to explain his charge’s improved form.
“I would think he’d want a bit further and better ground.”
Half-an-hour after Lie Forrit’s victory in Scotland’s first veteran chase, Snuker provided the third local victory on the trot after heading the Alan Matthews Birthday Bash handicap hurdle race.
The winner, under an inspiring ride by Britain’s champion professional lady jockey, Lucy Alexander, was posting a first victory over hurdles for Langholm handler James Ewart.He ploughed through the mud for a convincing 13-length win, ahead of Kilquiggan, from Sandy Thomson’s in-form Greenlaw stable.
Talking point of the afternoon was the unbelievable finish in the Peter and Gillian Allan Racecourse Caterers juvenile hurdle race.
Scrafton looked to have the race in the bag, but began looking around and pulling himself up in the closing stages, handing the race to 14-1 chance Medicine Hat.
Grand National runner-up Cappa Bleu, making his first racecourse appearance for 14 months, was sent off favourite in the concluding Eildon Hill Stables open hunter chase, where he finished third.
Four were in contention at the last, where Doulas Julian came to grief. Nowurhurlin went on to score by three lengths for Mindrum jockey Nick Orpwood, finishing ahead of Darsi Dancer, ridden by Selkirk teenager Sam Coltherd and trained by his father, Stuart.
Market leaders Donna’s Diamond and Ballybroker Breeze battled it out up the home straight in the opening EBF Stallions National Hunt novice hurdle race.
Donna’s Diamond stayed on strongly to hold the McCain-trained seven-year-old by two and three-quarter lengths.
The winner was opening his hurdling account on his third start over timber.
“He has been knocking on the door,” explained County Durham trainer Chris Grant, “and it’s nice for him to get a win under his belt.”
Donald McCain, who saddled the runner-up for St Boswells owners Paul and Clare Rooney, went one better in the following EBF Stallions/TBA Mares novices’ handicap chase with Tonvadosa.
The winner was making a victorious debut over fences, and stayed on strongly in testing conditions. Among a the hardy crowd of racegoers on Sunday was 103-year-old enthusiastic Kelso member Babs Macleod.
Racing returns to the track on Thursday, February 12.