The combination of ‘good’ ground and milder weather is expected is ensure bumper fields for the seven-race programme scheduled at Kelso Racecourse on Friday, December 29.
The loss of several northern race meetings during the first half of December, as a result of frost and snow, means many stables have a backlog of horses raring to go for the festive period.
The £12,000 feature race of the £55,000 card is the Children’s Immunology Trust Novices Steeplechase, run over the distance of two miles, six furlongs.
While entries won’t be registered until this weekend, it is anticipated that Rose Dobbin’s Grade 2 winning hurdler, Jonniesofa, and the Alistair Cochrane-owned Progress Drive, will both be aimed at the race.
Progress Drive was fourth in a hot event on his debut over fences at Carlisle recently and has won half of his six races over hurdles, including once at Kelso.
Stuart Coltherd intends to have several runners on the card and the Selkirk trainer sends Monango High to make his rules debut in the first race, the ROA / Racing Post Owners Jackpot Maiden Hurdle.
At the other end of the spectrum, Coltherd’s three-time course winner, Surprise Vendor, who will be 12 years old on New Year’s Day, heads for the SPG Fire and Security Handicap Hurdle. He’s likely to be joined by the Alistair Whillans-trained Meadowcroft Boy, another with course form – having scored at Kelso in October.
Like his father Gordon before him, Nicky Richards is a great supporter of Kelso Races and he is looking forward to the Kilco Handicap Steeplechase for Conquer Gold, a winner at Bangor last season for St Boswells couple Paul and Clare Rooney.
Richards, who landed the big prize at Cheltenham Racecourse last Saturday with Guitar Pete, plans to have a number of runners on the day and could be double-handed in the mares novices hurdle, with Cockley Beck and My Old Gold.
The Greystroke trainer is also likely to have one of the favourites for the fourth race on the card, a £10,000 Handicap Steeplechase, in the shape of Chidswell. He’s a progressive chaser and has only been unplaced once in seven outings over fences.
Opposition to Chidswell could come from the two-time course winner Clan Legend, trained by Nick Alexander. Clan Legend’s latest Kelso win came in the memorial race for Nick’s father, Cyril, nine months ago.
The Kinneston trainer is also targeting the final race on the programme, the Amateur Jockeys Association Handicap Hurdle, with Landecker – whose four career wins have all come at the Borders track.
Gates open at 10.05am and the first of the seven races is due off at 12.05pm.
The final race is scheduled for 3.20pm and racegoers will be welcome to stay on, until as late as 8pm.
The racecourse management is also working closely with Police Scotland, which is urging racegoers to avoid drinking and driving by nominating a driver or pre-arranging a taxi for the end of the afternoon.