Let Morebattle commence ...
Racing returns to Kelso this Thursday with the Borders track's most valuable midweek card.
Gates open at 11.25am, with the first race due off at 1.25pm, and the seven-strong card features two fantastic £25,000 races – the Timeform Morebattle Hurdle and The Ivan Straker Memorial Chase.
Timeform, the world-renowned firm started by Phil Bull, operates out of Halifax with its amazing form guides, and it prints the race card for Kelso.
It has sponsored the 2m2f Morebattle Hurdle for the last four years and Simon Walker, representing Timeform, said: “This is a real showcase race for us. Who can forget past winners such as Simonsig, Peddlers Cross and Top Notch? I
hope this year we will have another real potential Cheltenham winner in the field.”
Nicky Henderson is looking forward to another trip to Kelso for a meeting at which he’s enjoyed great success in the past. Berkshire raiders trained by the Upper Lambourn handler have won four races from just seven runners in the past five years at the Borders track, representing a healthy strike-rate of 57 per cent.
Henderson said: “We love coming up to Kelso with a few horses and we usually have something for the Morebattle Hurdle. Buveur D’Air was our intended runner this year but he was re-routed to Sandown last Saturday, so Brain Power (on a hat-trick after wins at Sandown and Ascot) is a possible contender this time.”
Top Notch won last year’s Morebattle Hurdle for Henderson, while subsequent dual Cheltenham festival hero Simonsig won the Kelso feature for him in 2016. Nicky Richards’ One For Harry, a recent winner at Wetherby, chased home Top Notch last year and may be in the line-up again.
Tizzy Straker is a huge supporter of Kelso where her late husband, Ivan, was a director. Ivan was such a huge character and did an enormous amount of good in the racing industry, while he is well remembered for his love or National Hunt racing and for having resurrected the Grand National at Aintree.
It’s appropriate that his race produced one of the all-time greats in Long Run, the only Cheltenham Gold Cup winner to race in Scotland, who battled it out with Knockara Beau all the way up the Kelso straight in 2014.
October course and distance winner Seldom Inn could be back for more Kelso prize money. Sandy Thomson’s Greenlaw chaser was travelling strongly when falling at Newcastle last time and has only had six starts over fences.
Paul Nicholls won this last year with Unioniste and the champion trainer may well try and take the prize back to Somerset again.
Scott Hume, of the Border Hotel, Kirk Yetholm, has very generously sponsored the 2m 7½f Open Hunter Chase. The Border Hotel is not only the most popular watering hole at the top end of the Pennine Way, but is also now the go-to pub and hotel in the southern Borders. Scott and Lyndsey continue to build the reputation of this venue and are likely to be rewarded with a very competitive Hunter Chase.
Kit Alexander, son of trainer Nick, came second aboard Wicklow Lad in this 12 months ago and the combination could attempt to go one better. Cave Hunt, who lost a shoe at Musselburgh recently, and Chicago Outfit, both know their way round Kelso pretty well.
Brewin Dolphin, the internationally renowned wealth manager, sponsors at Kelso through its hugely respected Edinburgh office. Johnny Fleming, of Brewin Dolphin, said: “I came as a guest of one of the big banks and was so impressed with the scope for enjoyment for corporate entertainment that I immediately signed up as a sponsor.”
Nick Alexander is eyeing this for Landecker, who gained his latest win at Kelso in November. The Kinneston trainer said: “It’s the obvious place to go as he loves the track and all his four career wins have come there.”
Another possible is the Sandy Thomson-trained Rowdy Rocher, who won over fences at Ayr last month.
The first race on the card is a 2m Handicap Hurdle and Helmsley Lad, trained by Malcolm Jefferson, looks a likely contender after his third over course and distance last month. James Ewart-trained Charmant is another possibility, with Kelso experience under his belt.
Bob and Ann Miller sponsor the second race on the card, a 2m6½f Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, to celebrate a big family birthday. Rocking Blues landed this interactive race last February before giving the form an almighty boost with victory in the Eider Chase. Maurice Barnes-trained was runner-up that day and has since come an honourable second in the Borders National.
The last race on the card is the Walk with Scott Standard Open National Hunt Flat race and is sponsored by Alan Clydesdale, a tremendously loyal supporter of Kelso. The race is to raise awareness for the Walk with Scott Foundation, set up by Scott Glynn in 2015 to raise money for many deserving local charities.
The next race meeting see the return of weekend racing at Kelso with the Premier Hurdle Day on Saturday, March 4. Gates will open at 12.15pm, with the first race off at 2.15pm.