At the top of the weights for Scotland’s most valuable hurdle race is Buveur D’Air, the Nicky Henderson-trained dual Champion Hurdle winner, who shares favouritism with stablemate Balco Coastal and the Harry Fry trained Metier.
Many of the entries, including the Dan Skelton-trained Faivoir, who finished third in the race last year, would be in line for a bonus of £100,000 if winning the Bet365 Morebattle Hurdle and following up at the Cheltenham Festival later this month.
Last year’s bonus was collected by the Shunter for Emmet Mullins and additional Irish spice is added this time around by the Jessica Harrington-trained Autumn Evening and Stuart Crawford’s Saint D’Oroux.
Evan Williams, who completed a full set of wins at all Britain’s jump tracks with victory at Kelso last month, seeks to scoop the prize for Wales with Current Mood.
Strong resistance from northern trainers comes in the shape of Cormier, trained by Brian Ellison, and James Moffatt’s Alqamar.
Scottish interests lie with Elvis Mail, Thereisnodoubt and Voix De Reve, while the horse travelling the least distance will be Do Not Disturb, who needs only to cross the border from Rose Dobbin’s Northumbrian base.
The team at Kelso is preparing to extend a warm welcome to racegoers, as well as the ITV Racing team, following a period of restrictions which has affected the last two years.
Jonathan Garratt, managing director of Kelso Races, said: “Kelso became the first track in Britain to race behind closed doors on March 16, 2019 and we’ve been operating under a series of restrictions or varying severity ever since.
"This fixture represents a huge turning point for us and we’re looking forward to celebrating with a large crowd.
"We’ve started to see really strong interest in tickets during the last few days and racegoers will be able to walk up and purchase tickets at the gate.”
The Bet365 Morebattle Hurdle will be one of five races broadcast live by ITV.
The supporting card includes the £50,000, Grade 2, Bet365 Premier Novices Hurdle and the £50,000 Bet365 Premier Steeplechase, in which Cloth Cap bids to follow up his win of 12 months ago, ahead of a further tilt at the Grand National.
The strongest opposition may come in the form of the top-rated Bristol De Mai, trained by Nigel Twiston Davies, although few runners would be a more popular runner than Big River, who has already won at Kelso on eight occasions for Milnathort trainer Lucinda Russell.
The gates will open at 11am on Saturday and the first race is scheduled for 1pm.