Top racing action heralds a prosperous New Year at Kelso

The facilities at Kelso (picture by Alan Raeburn)
The facilities at Kelso (picture by Alan Raeburn)

Prize money at Kelso Racecourse is set to exceed £1.35 million in 2019 – an increase of almost 50 per cent compared to three years ago.

The Borders track, where racing is set to take place this Sunday, already ranks as the eighth best racecourse in Britain for jump-racing prize money.

Jonathan Garratt, managing director of Kelso Races Ltd., said: “We are facing a challenging time, as the Government’s legislation to reduce the stakes on fixed odds betting terminals is forecast to result in thousands of betting shop closures, which will impact on racing’s media revenue.

“However, whatever happens in the rest of Britain, we intend to maintain our relative position in the top bracket of the sport”.

A new parade ring and winners’ enclosure was opened at the racecourse in September, featuring much-improved viewing for racegoers.

Garratt added: “We continue to develop plans for upgrading the facilities and we hope to bring these forward as soon as possible.

“The racecourse company reinvests all profits into the facilities or into prize funds, so the pace at which we make improvements will be dictated partly by the financial climate.”

Forthcoming races to benefit from the increased prize money include the £30,000 Morebattle Hurdle on February 14, the £50,000 Premier Hurdle and the £60,000 Premier Chase on Saturday, March 2.

There will also be four valuable handicap races covered live by ITV Racing on March 23.

In the meantime, the opening race on Sunday features entries from far and wide – including Lambourn-based Warren Greatrix, who is triple-handed with Ector, Roccowithlove and Top Of The Charts.

Fledgling Warwickshire trainer Olly Murphy, enjoying just his second campaign with a licence, has a couple of entries in Bubble Of Gold and Skandiburg, the winner of a bumper and a novice hurdle already this season.

The biggest entry of the day, with 24 horses being pencilled in, is the two-mile novices hurdle race. Among them is Battle Hard, the first runner at Kelso for new trainer and former jump jockey Daragh Bourke, who is based near Tristan Davidson in Cumbria.

Perhaps the most interesting entry is Galvin, unbeaten in two bumpers and a maiden hurdle, owned by Scotsman Ronnie Bartlett and trained by Gordon Elliott.

Peter Bowen, who completed a ‘full house’ of a winner at every jumps course in the UK at Musselburgh on Monday, is represented by Beggar’s Wishes and Henryville.

The Welsh trainer has enjoyed 12 winners from 42 runners at Kelso, which gives him a strike rate of 29 per cent.

Also among the entries is Donald McCain’s Mount Mews, unbeaten in three visits to Kelso, with his strikes including a wide-margin success in last year’s Grade 2 Premier Hurdle.

Selkirk trainer Stuart Coltherd celebrated his 52nd birthday on Tuesday. He plans to bring Avondhu Pearl back in trip for the Mares Handicap Hurdle.

On a BHA mark of 98, Saucysioux is the top-rated mare in the race and her Berkshire trainer Barry Brennan has also put forward The Lady Rules as he bids for a first course success.

Chidswell, a neck runner-up in the Racing TV Handicap Steeplechase two years ago, bids to go one better for owners David and Nicky Robinson. Chidswell’s trainer Nicky Richards teamed with the same owners recently to win a Grade 1 chase with Simply Ned at Leopardstown.

Nick Alexander’s horses are in flying form and 13-year-old Jet Master, a game second in the veterans’ chase at Kelso last month, should go well.

Gates will open on Sunday at 10.30am, with the first of seven races getting under way at 12.30pm.