Top line-up at Kelso’s closed-door race meeting
Racing continues at Kelso Racecourse, behind closed doors, this Sunday (October 4) when the feature race of the day is the £25,000 NSPCC Schools Service Handicap Steeplechase.
The Government’s current COVID protocols prevent the public from attending sporting events and so only those necessary to the staging of the racing will be admitted to the racecourse.
There, they will be subject to a strict screening process.
Simply Ned, a Grade 1 winner over fences, lines up for the feature race for the sixth consecutive year, having won the 2m 1f event twice in 2014 and 2015.
Trainer Nicky Richards said: “This has been the starting point for ‘Ned’ for a lot of seasons now and he’s been a star for us. After Kelso, he usually goes to Cheltenham in October and then Leopardstown over Christmas, where he won a couple of Grade 1s, although that might not happen this year.”
He looks likely to be accompanied by McGroarty, who won the race last year, and Nuts Well, who was victorious in 2018 for Northumberland-based trainer Ann Hamilton.
Aye Right, trained by Harriet Graham and owned by Kelso director Geoff Adam, could make his seasonal reappearance in the race and is already a three-time hurdle winner at his local racecourse.
In-form Dan Skelton is represented by Hatcher, who has won of his four of his eight starts over fences, while Iain Jardine already has Conor O’Farrell booked for Cool Mix, a game runner-up at Kelso’s opening fixture of the autumn.
Alistair Whillans, based near Hawick, has an interesting newcomer to hurdle in the shape of Billy Bathgate in the second race, the William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmaker Novices Hurdle. The horse carries the colours of Elizabeth Ferguson, who was successful in last year’s race with Kaizer.
The Belhaven Brewery Handicap Chase, over three miles, is the target for Damiens Dilemma, who sprang a 28/1 surprise for Selkirk’s Stuart and Sam Coltherd at Hexham recently. Meanwhile, Lucinda Russell has already booked Derek Fox and Stephen Mulqueen for Shanroe Street and Speak Of The Devil respectively.
Reflecting on the situation in relation to crowds, Jonathan Garratt, managing director of Kelso Races Ltd, said: “The Scottish Government has committed to reviewing the situation on a three-weekly basis. Our priority is to gain permission for annual members to attend as soon as it is possible.
“We have developed plans that would enable members of the public to attend in much the same way they currently visit other open-air venues, such as botanic gardens and safari parks.
“I hope we’ll be able to welcome the public soon but, in the meantime, we’ll continue to race behind closed doors.”
The first of the seven races gets under way at 2pm.