Punters hope their horses will Leap to victory as TV cameras visit Kelso

Rouge Vif – 2019 winner of the Premier Novices HurdleRouge Vif – 2019 winner of the Premier Novices Hurdle
Rouge Vif – 2019 winner of the Premier Novices Hurdle
ITV cameras will be pointing towards Kelso on Saturday when the feature race of the day forms part of the terrestrial broadcaster’s Leap Year Day programme, which also includes racing from Doncaster and Newbury.

The £50,000 William Hill Premier Novices Hurdle Race was first run in 1990 and was awarded Grade 2 status in 2003.

Last year, the spoils went to the Harry Whittington-trained Rouge Vif, who was third in Grade 1 company at Aintree a few weeks later and has a live chance of capturing the Arkle Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next month.

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Paul Nicholls, the winning trainer in 2016 with subsequent Grand Annual Chase hero Le Prezien, has pencilled in Calva D’Auge, who has scored at Plumpton and Wincanton this year.

The two highest rated entries are old rivals Fred (144) and Malystic (140), trained respectively by Nicky Henderson and Peter Niven.

Fred, who has been installed the 11-4 favourite by the sponsors, pipped Malystic by a head at Musselburgh earlier this month and holds an entry in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Niven was a three-time winning jockey in the race and also saddled classy Clever Cookie – closely related to Malystic and a Group 2 winner on the Flat – to success in 2014.

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Other interesting entries include Ruth Jefferson’s Clondaw Caitlin, unbeaten in two impressive previous runs over hurdles, and the Jennie Candlish-trained Cheddleton, a four-length winner over two miles at Kelso last month.

Lucinda Russell, the last winning Scottish trainer in 2012 with Tap Night, is represented by Lucky Flight, a two-time winner at Kelso already this season and owned by The Vikings.

The valuable seven-race February 29 card also features the William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmakers Premier Chase, a Class 1 Listed Chase over three miles, which has been used by many horses as a stepping stone to the Grand National.

Sandy Thomson, the Greenlaw trainer, was successful in 2017 with Seldom Inn and is triple-handed with Dimple, Donna’s Delight and Seeyouatmidnight.

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‘Midnight’, as he is known at Lambden, was retired shortly after finishing 11th behind Tiger Roll in the 2018 Grand National but has made a miraculous recovery and could now appear at the scene of his triumph in the 2015 Paris Pike Novices’ Chase.

Nicky Henderson’s Top Notch, who boasts the highest BHA rating of 159, landed the 2016 Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso and is a Grade 1 scorer over fences.

Not far behind, on 156, is Brian Ellison’s Grand National entry Definitly Red, who was beaten at odds of 1-6 by Captain Redbeard over course and distance 12 months ago.

Cheltenham raider Lord Du Mesnil, trained by Richard Hobson, won three long distance chases in a row before being headed close home at Haydock Park last weekend.

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The final race of the day is the Alan Clydesdale Memorial Conditional Jockeys Chase – which is open only to horses aged 10 years and older.

Fledging trainer Jack R. Barber could have his first runner in Scotland with recent Plumpton winner Ask The Weatherman.

Somerset-based Jack is the grandson of the late Richard Barber, who started an illustrious point to point training career from the same yard 30 years ago and is a name to watch for the future.

The gates open at 11.30am for the first race at 1.37pm.

There will be musical entertainment in the Pavilion Marquee following the final race of the afternoon.

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l Elsewhere, Kelso was in a good place after a quest to find out which punters are forking out more than the rest to enjoy a bottle of bubbly on race days.

Researchers from Grandnational.org.uk looked at the prices of a bottle of Prosecco at every racecourse in the UK.

And they found Kelso was the most reasonable in Scotland, and second cheapest in Britain, at £25 a bottle.

Taunton in Somerset had Britain’s lowest, at £20, while Goodwood in Sussex charged the most, at £41.