Prize kitty for this weekend’s Kelso raceday up to £213,000

What was already a big-bucks prize kitty for Kelso Racecourse’s Bet365 Morebattle Hurdle Day this weekend has been bumped up still further, taking it to in excess of £210,000, and it’s attracted an all-star array of entries.

Cloth Cap, one of the runners at Kelso this Saturday, pictured winning the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire on November 28, 2020 (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Cloth Cap, one of the runners at Kelso this Saturday, pictured winning the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire on November 28, 2020 (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Among 13 potential runners in the £45,000 Bet365 Premier Steeplechase on Saturday, March 6, are six set to feature in Merseyside’s Grand National next month, including the favourite for the Aintree feature race, Cloth Cap, trained in Gloucestershire by Jonjo O’Neill, and third-favourite Kimberlite Candy, trained by Herefordshire’s Tom Lacey.

Other possible runners in the three-mile race include Definitely Red, a winner at Kelso at the end of February last year trained by Brian Ellison in North Yorkshire, and Lake View Lad, trained in Fife by Nick Alexander.

The top-rated horse competing is Nuts Well, a two-time winner at Kelso looking to follow-up a career-best win at the grade-two Old Roan Chase at Aintree in October.

The ten-year-old bay gelding is trained at Capheaton in Northumberland by Ann Hamilton, and she’s lining up good prospects elsewhere on the card in the form of Pay the Piper in the £20,000 Bet365 Handicap Hurdle and Tommy’s Oscar in either the £40,000 Bet365 Premier Hurdle or the £70,000 Bet365 Morebattle Hurdle.

Four of Saturday’s races will be broadcast live on ITV, and viewers can expect to see an impressive assembly of horses from both sides of the border.

Proschema, trained by Dan Skelton in Warwickshire, is favourite for the Morebattle Hurdle and is one of 13 entries set to race at the Cheltenham Festival later this month as well, putting the six-year-old chestnut gelding in line for the £100,000 bonus promised to the winner if able to follow up success in the Borders with a win in any race at the Gloucestershire event.

Somerset’s Paul Nicholls, an 11-time champion trainer, is triple-handed with Christopher Wood, Miranda and Solo, and sole Irish entry the Shunter, a grade-three scorer at Cheltenham in November, is set to be County Carlow-based Emmet Mullins’ first-ever runner at Kelso.

Nicholls, 58, said: “We’ve made a few entries, and I think we will be sending five horses up to Kelso on Saturday.

“The prize money is unbelievable and we’ve had a bit of luck up there in the past.

“They deserve to have a really good day.”

Offering total prize money of £213,000, the day is by far the richest in the course’s near-200-year history, and its managing director, Jonathan Garratt, said: “We have been planning the development of this programme for some time and the prize fund would have been even larger if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.

“We felt that it was really important to keep the racecourse moving forward, irrespective of the challenges, because we are providing a positive stimulus to businesses throughout our community.

“While it is disappointing that we are still not able to welcome any spectators, we are delighted that the races have been so well received by the industry.

“It is great that they will be covered by ITV and we are tremendously grateful to the racehorse owners, trainers and Bet365 for their collective support.”

Bet365 spokesperson Pat Cooney added: “We are delighted to sponsor all eight races at the meeting and look forward, in particular, to the Bet365 Premier Chase featuring several classy staying chasers which may well provide some serious clues for the Aintree Grand National.

“The Bet365 Morebattle Hurdle, with £75,000 in prize money, has attracted 23 talented hurdlers.”