Visitors to Kelso Racecourse this coming Wednesday (September 19) – the first day of the season – will be treated to a glimpse of the 2017 Grand National winner, One for Arthur, as the equine celebrity attends to open the arena’s new parade ring and winners’ enclosure.
The first phase of the racecourse’s development programme, costing £350,000, includes a new viewing terrace around the parade ring, which will allow racegoers to obtain an improved view of the horses both before and after each race.
The new parade ring is more than 50 per cent bigger than the old one and incorporates the winners’ enclosure.
The demolition of an old Betfred betting shop and a reduction in the number of horse-walks required has created extra space for racegoers. Jonathan Garratt, who joined Kelso Races Ltd as managing director last year, said: “The new layout will improve the flow of people and horses around the racecourse.
“Not only will it be safer, it will also give racegoers a better view and an improved experience all round.”
“We wanted to ensure the horse is at the centre of everything we do at Kelso, which is why we decided to start our development with this particular project.
“Future developments will ripple out from this area, so that the focus is always on the equine element of our sport.
“Next year, we hope to build new saddling and wash-down facilities on the far side of the parade ring, while the following season, we are planning to commence construction of a new weighing room and space for entertaining racehorse owners.”
The terraced viewing area, designed with the assistance of Galashiels-based Aitken Turnbull Architects, has been conceived with accessibility in mind for all racegoers.
Built into the terrace will be three circular platforms, providing elevated views of the parade ring, which will be easily accessible from the main concourse without the need to traverse steps.
The central platform will eventually have a glazed section to the front, enabling viewing for wheelchair users and small children.
Mr Garratt said: “The window for carrying out the work was very tight and it’s been a great effort by all the contractors involved to ensure it’s all functional in time for racing – there’ll be some elements to complete after the first day has been run.
“We started 13 weeks ago by demolishing the old betting shop and, when Elliot Henderson’s lads came to dig an enormous hole in the ground, we were committed!
“The terrace steps have been fabricated to a bespoke design by Border Concrete in Kelso, while all of the sandstone facing has come from Hutton Stone, near Swinton.
“So it is very much a local project, with input from a cross-section of local tradesmen. They have all been excellent.”
The parade ring isn’t the only part of the racecourse which has benefited from investment during the summer.
There have also been some improvements on the track, where vehicle crossing points have been relocated, and the track widened at the junction between the hurdle course and the steeplechase course.
Prize money will exceed £1.25 million during 2018 and one of the early feature races, the two-mile NSPCC Handicap Steeplechase, on Sunday, October 7, will increase in value to £40,000.
While entries for Wednesday’s meeting will be made tomorrow (Thursday), the parade ring development will be opened by One For Arthur, twice a winner at Kelso before his historic Aintree victory.
The Lucinda Russell-trained gelding – owned locally by Belinda McClung of Ancrum and Debs Thomson of Cessford – is back in training and, although he isn’t ready to run again yet, another tilt at the Grand National fences is on the cards next year.
The gates will open for Kelso’s Twilight Fixture at 2pm, with the official opening of the parade ring around 2.45pm.
The first race is due off at 4.10pm and the final race at 6.45pm.