Hawick jockey Craig Nichol was first past the post on 5/2 joint favourite Kaizer, a seven-year-old chestnut gelding owned by West Lothian’s Elizabeth Ferguson, picking up its £7,788 top prize.
Whillans, only in charge of Hawick’s Newmill Stables since September after taking over from dad Alistair, didn’t have to wait long for his second taste of success at the Borders track either as Nichol guided 9/4 favourite Bella Bluesky to victory just half an hour later in the Try Racing TV for Free Now Novices’ Hurdle at 2.20pm, claiming its £4,901 prize.
That was the six-year-old brown mare’s second career win following a first place at Musselburgh last year.
“It was good,” said Whillans. “I’m really, really happy to have won at our local track, and to get two wins in a day was brilliant.”
That double taste of success was sweeter still, he said, as not only was it was achieved with a long-time family friend in the saddle but Bella Bluesky is also part-owned by his dad Alistair.
“That made it even better as I’ve known Craig for years,” he said. “His dad worked for my dad and Craig used to be at my uncle Donald’s yard.
“It was great for Bella to win too as we bred her. We used to have her mother, Lady Bluesky, and she did well for us. She must have won about 10 races, I think.”
Even better yet was the fact that those quickfire victories made it a hat-trick of wins for Whillans in the space of 48 hours as Tartan Cookie was first past the post south of the border in the 4pm Quinnbet.com Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at Newcastle two days previously, ridden by Danny McMenamin.
That was the first hat-trick of victories in a week of his fledgling career in charge of a yard though he did get two winners in his first two races after taking over in September over jumps at Stratford in Warwickshire, with Cracking Destiny at 5/1 and Scots Poet at 50/1, just after his dad notched up a win in his last race with 18/1 shot Zealous at Carlisle, the 372nd winner of his 33-year career as a handler.
“That was the first time I’d got three wins in a week, although I did get wins in my first two races after my dad won his last one, so that was three in a week for us as a yard,” said Whillans.
His other runner yesterday, 9/4 favourite Pitempton Power, fell in the 3.20pm Derrick John Allison Memorial Handicap Chase but, happily, the seven-year-old bay gelding, ridden by Jedburgh’s Callum Bewley, was unhurt.
“He’s fine. He took a fall but he seems all right,” said Whillans.
“It would have been a real sickener if he’d been hurt but he seems OK. He’s been walking and trotting and looks none the worse for his fall.”
That race saw Welsh trainer Evan Williams rack up a full house of wins at all Britain’s jumps courses as his daughter Isabel rode Peterborough to victory.
The nine-year-old bay gelding, a 4/1 chance, was one of only two finishers, beating Sword of Fate, trained by North Ayrshire’s Leonard Kerr, by 18 lengths to claim its top prize of £4,684.
Second and third places in the opening race won by Kaizer also went to Borders-trained horses. Joint favourite Dequall, trained in Selkirk by Stuart Coltherd and ridden by Peter Kavanagh, was runner-up and Milvale, trained near Kelso by Sandy Thomson and with Edward Austin in the saddle, was third.
Coltherd also finished runner-up in the 2.20pm race won by Bella Bluesky with 12/1 chance Augharue, ridden by his son Sam.
Fife trainer Nick Alexander’s Upandatit won the 2.50pm Start Your RacingTV Free Trial Now Novices’ Handicap Chase, crossing the line ahead of Morningside, trained by Yetholm’s Sandy Forster and with Austin riding.
North Yorkshire trainer Justin Landy’s Lalochezia, with Alain Cawley in the saddle, won the 3.50pm Jumping For Joy With Free Racing TV Maiden Hurdle, with Firth of Forth, ridden by Nichol for Northumbrian trainer Rose Dobbin, second.
The last race of the day, the 4.20pm William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmaker Handicap Hurdle, and its £10,406 top prize were won by 14/1 outsider Saint D’Oroux, ridden by James Bowen and trained in Northern Ireland by Stuart Crawford.
Kelso’s next meeting is on Friday, February 18, followed by the Bet365 Morebattle Hurdle on Saturday, March 5. For details, go to https://www.kelso-races.co.uk/