Kelso victory a Grand National dress rehearsal for Cloth Cap
Kelso Racecourse hosted a dress rehearsal for next month’s Grand National at Aintree in Merseyside at the weekend as Cloth Cap, the favourite to win the UK’s most famous race, got a victory under his belt ahead of that big day.
The 3.15pm Bet365 Morebattle Hurdle boasted Saturday’s biggest prize kitty, at £75,000, accounting for more than a third of the £213,000 on offer on the day, with £46,920 going to winner the Shunter, but all eyes were on the Bet365 Premier Chase 35 minutes earlier as Cloth Cap warmed up for the National.
His Isle of Man-based owner Trevor Hemmings is hoping for his fourth victory at Aintree, and the nine-year-old bay gelding, ridden by Tom Scudamore and trained by Jonjo O’Neill in Gloucestershire, looked to be up to the job as he jumped his way to a seven-length victory ahead of Aso, trained by Venetia Williams in Herefordshire.
Odds on Cloth Cap winning the Aintree marathon on Saturday, April 10, have now been cut to as short as 5-1.
Scudamore said: “I was pretty pleased with that. He did all the right things again and, like at Newbury in the Ladbrokes Trophy, he jumped for fun.
“I’m looking forward to Aintree tremendously and I’m sure he’ll give me a great spin.”
The Shunter is now chasing a £100,000 bonus at Gloucestershire’s Cheltenham Festival later this month after the 5-2 favourite, ridden by Alain Cawley, won the Morebattle Hurdle for Irish trainer Emmet Mullins.
That six-figure jackpot will go the way of the eight-year-old bay gelding if he wins any race at the festival and, with entries for five different races over the four-day event, he looks to be in with a good chance of success.
“He stays pretty well but found myself a bit further back than I ideally wanted to be,” said Cawley.
“I’d say he will have a go at the bonus all right and probably his regular man Brian Hayes will be back on board at Cheltenham.”
My Drogo came up trumps for Warwickshire’s Dan and Harry Skelton in the 1.30pm Bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle, another of the feature races on the richest card ever offered at the Borders track.
Trainer Dan Skelton, making his first visit to Kelso, said: “He’s a lovely horse and he will go chasing next season.
“We took him out of Cheltenham and he will go to Aintree instead.
“We’ve had a few winners here but I haven’t been personally before.
“They’ve done a grand job with the track and the level of prize money stands up to the highest scrutiny.”
Borders jockey Ryan Mania pulled off a winning double on Fourth of July, trained by East Ayrshire’s Mike Smith, and his father-in-law Sandy Thomson’s 16-5 favourite Cedar Hill, claiming his third win in four visits to Kelso Racecourse from his Lambden stables seven miles away.
That former win for the six-year-old bay gelding, in the 12.55pm Bet365 Handicap Chase, was claimed ahead of Kirk Yetholm trainer Sandy Forster’s Lastin’ Memories.
There are two further meetings behind closed doors at Kelso this month, on Monday, March 22, and Saturday, March 27.