Successful 2018 at Kelso has run its course

An excellent crowd at Kelso's end-of-December meeting in 2016 (picture by Alan Raeburn)
An excellent crowd at Kelso's end-of-December meeting in 2016 (picture by Alan Raeburn)

The team behind Kelso Races hopes to round off the year in style this Saturday when the Borders track hosts its final fixture of 2018 with a seven-race programme, featuring the £20,000 Children’s Immunology Trust Novices Steeplechase.

Two years ago, the feature race was won by the Irish raider Angus Milan, trained by Noel Kelly, in front of a massive crowd.

Last year’s race was lost to the weather but the forecast looks much more favourable this time around, with positive night-time temperatures and sunny spells predicted for Saturday afternoon.

Debs Thomson, of Cessford, one of the two ‘Golf Widows’ who own 2017 Grand National winner One For Arthur, supports the feature race in order to promote the work of the Children’s Immunology Trust.

The charity, which is helping to set up an immunology base at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and fund research at the children’s bone marrow transplant unit in Newcastle, will be raising funds on the race day.

Despite losing two fixtures when the ‘Beast from the East’ brought snow to the region in March, 2018 has been a record breaking year for Kelso Racecourse.

The total amount of prize money offered exceeded £1,250,000 – more than ever before.

The course now stages the highest quality jumps programme of any track in Scotland and makes the eighth best contribution to prize money of all the jumps courses in Britain.

In April, the ITV racing team broadcast live from the racecourse for the first time in 40 years, when the big race winners included Keyboard Gangster, from the Hawick-based yard of Donald Whillans.

In June, worked commenced on the new parade ring and winners’ enclosure, which was used for the first time amid winds which gusted up to 70 mph at the first fixture of the 2018-19 season in September.

There was more success for local trainers when Sandy Thomson won the £50,000 Persimmon Homes Scottish Borders National, with Harry The Viking, earlier this month.

Jonathan Garratt, managing director of Kelso Races, said: “We’re gradually improving the race programme and raising prize values every year.

“It is really satisfying to see local trainers winning the money, as we have such a lot of talent in the Borders.

“They should be rewarded with more horses, and a higher quality of horse, so that, over time, we’ll eventually rival the best of the yards in the south.”

Entries for Saturday’s races will be made on Wednesday, slightly later than usual because of the Christmas holiday.

The first of the seven races on December 29 is due off at 11.45am, with the gates opening at 10am.

There will be musical entertainment after racing in the paddock-side marquee.

While there will be plenty of tickets available at the entrance, racegoers can save money by booking online before 2pm on Thursday, December 27 – safe in the knowledge that, if there were any weather mishaps like last year’s, with no racing taking place, all admission money would be refunded automatically.