Big day ahead at Kelso for Borders racing's leading ladies

Kelso Racecourse is expecting its biggest turnout for three years this coming weekend as it stages its first end-of-season ladies’ day since the lifting of coronavirus restrictions on attendance numbers.

By Darin Hutson
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 11:13 am
Updated Thursday, 26th May 2022, 11:42 am
Lilliesleaf racehorse trainer Jackie Stephen is hoping Lock Down Luke, right, will make her day at Kelso on Sunday (Photo: Bill McBurnie)
Lilliesleaf racehorse trainer Jackie Stephen is hoping Lock Down Luke, right, will make her day at Kelso on Sunday (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

Ladies’ day is the most popular date on the course’s calendar – attracting crowds of up to 6,000, more than twice its average turnout – and, along with the likes of Melrose Sevens and Berwickshire’s Jim Clark Rally, is among the biggest sporting events in the Borders.

Managing director Jonathan Garrett is expecting that popularity to continue on Sunday, but he admits it will be a bit of an unknown quantity this time round.

“We’ve never sold so many tickets in advance of a fixture, although one of the effects of the last two years has been an increased trend towards advance booking, so it’s difficult to predict what the walk-up crowd will be on Sunday,” he said.

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Race-goers at Kelso's last ladies' day back in 2019 (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

“We’ve prepared for a large crowd, so there will be plenty of tickets available to purchase at the entrance.

“Ladies’ day is easily our biggest crowd, though it’s not our most valuable meeting.

“Usually, pre-pandemic, we’d hope for a crowd of 5,000 to 6,000, but it’s difficult to know what to expect this year.”

Race-goers are encouraged to dress up and four style awards will be on offer, sponsored by Kelso countrywear shop A Hume, Heiton’s Schloss Roxburghe Hotel, Edinburgh Gin, Galashiels design studio the Colourful Edit and Borders ladieswear chain Inis.

Competition is expected to be every bit as fierce on the track and a few Borders ladies will be hoping it’s their day too – racehorse trainers Jackie Stephen, Sandy Forster, Harriet Graham and Katie Scott.

Lilliesleaf’s Stephen has an entry pencilled in for the day’s feature race, the 3.22pm Elliot Henderson Group Handicap Hurdle, offering a top prize of £10,406.

The six-year-old bay gelding is one of 10 entries for that race, with the others including Karl Thornton’s Rich Belief, Rebecca Menzies’ Ingleby Hollow and Lucinda Russell’s Antey.

Kirk Yetholm’s Sandy Forster is enjoying her joint best season ever, having already equalled the eight wins she notched up last year, three of this term’s having been at Kelso, and further success could be in store as she has several runners lined up for Sunday.

They include three-time course scorer Lissen to the Lady, one of 13 entries for the Five Star Taxis Handicap Hurdle at 3.57pm.

Camptown’s Graham, along with co-trainer Gary Rutherford, have entered recent Perth winner Brandy McQueen for that race too, to be ridden by Hawick jockey Craig Nichol, and Stephen, keeping her options open, has also listed Lock Down Luke as a possible entry.

Also potentially contesting that race’s £4,520 top prize are Selkirk trainer Scott’s Halcyon Dreams and two Hawick trainers, Ewan Whillans with Tartan Cookie and his uncle Donald Whillans with Bonny Houxty.

Forster’s got an entry lined up for the day's opener as well, the 2.12pm William Hill Bookmakers’ Novices’ Hurdle.

That’s Zihuatanejo, and the eight-year-old bay gelding could be up against Kelso trainer Sandy Thomson’s Foxhollow.

Forster’s got Ashjan’s name down for the day’s second race, the 2.47pm Schloss Roxburghe Hotel Handicap Chase, and her namesake Thomson could be doubled-handed in that one, with Sirwilliamwallace and Brotherly Company. Spittal-on-Rule trainer Paul Robson has also thrown his hat into the ring for that one with previous Kelso winner Flamboyant Joyaux.

Thomson’s got Stoney Rover pencilled in for the 4.32pm Edinburgh Gin Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, potentially facing the younger Whillans’ Hold the Note and Selkirk trainer Stuart Coltherd’s Hidden Commander.

Forster and Thomson might also cross swords in the last race of the day too, the 5.40pm See You in September Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race, the former having put up Pipers Cross and the latter Blue Baloo.

Gates open at noon and tickets cost from £30. For details, go to https://www.kelso-races.co.uk/

For a reminder of how it went last time, see also …