RACING returns to the Border track for the Tote Premier Hurdle Day on Saturday (March 6).
It is Kelso's biggest day of the season featuring the Grade 2 Totepool Premier Hurdle, with a total prize fund of £35,000.
The first race of the quality seven race card is off at 1.55pm with the Isle of Skye Scotch Whisky Handicap Chase which is run for the Hamilton Memorial Trophy. This race is staged to publicise Isle of Skye's generous sponsorship of the flat and jump trainer's awards for Scotland. The winners of the 2009 season, Jim Goldie as leading flat trainer and Lucinda Russell as leading National Hunt trainer will be made after this first race. Isle of Skye have sponsored these annual Scottish awards to promote their ever popular blended whisky, as it is now on franchise at all five of the Scottish racecourses.
Jim Goldie, leading Scottish Flat trainer, had a fantastic season winning the championship with 24 winners at Scottish Tracks in 2009, with 11 at his local track Ayr, 7 winners at Musselburgh and 6 at Hamilton Park. The National Hunt leading trainer award went to Lucinda Russell who won a total of 15 races in Scotland, which included 7 races at Ayr, 3 at Kelso and Perth followed by 2 at Mussleburgh, her closest rival was Peter Monteith who secured the runners up spot with 9 winners at Scottish Tracks during the 2009 season. Iain Weir and Peter Russell will be on hand to make the presentation after the race to the winning connections of the Handicap Chase and also to the two trainers involved. Nick Alexander had his first winner for a while at the recent Kelso meeting and the Leslie trainer could be represented here by Native Coll. Alistair Whillans now has Cloudmor, who hasn't run since appearing for Len Lungo in December 2007.
The Tote sponsor the two main races on the valuable card, leading with the Grade 2 Premier Hurdle race, this Pattern race always attracts the highest class of young hurdlers from the current season. The Tote will be represented by their Chairman, Mike Smith and their highly respected parliamentarian, Sir Roger Easterby. Their presence at the Border track puts into context the importance of this race, in their huge build up to their sponsorship of the Tote Gold Cup at Cheltenham later in the month, which sees the head to head clash of Kauto Star and Denman for the third time.
Kelso's Grade 2 hurdle has been won by some well known names in the past including Ignotus, Bywell Beau, Mephisto and Master Turn to name a few. Edinburgh-born Karen McLintock has had this contest penciled in for the James Callow-owned Bygones Of Bird, who has won twice at Newcastle this term while John Quinn has entered useful middle-distance Flat racer Veiled Applause. James Ewart has entered a couple - including dual Kelso winner Bishops Heir and Turbo Island.
Saturday's card features two £20,000 supporting races. The first of which is the Cyril Alexander Memorial, which is run in memory of the late Cyril Alexander who was such a successful businessman and farmer, who had a huge enthusiasm for racing, hunting and breeding horses. He was a real Kelso enthusiast and his family have continued his passion for the sport. His granddaughter, Lucy Alexander is now making a name for herself as an up and coming young lady rider. In the Novice Chase Nicky Richards' Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Noble Alan is an interesting recruit to fences and he could find himself up against Bedlam Boy (Ferdy Murphy), Lease Lend (Tim Easterby) and Silk Drum or Diamond Frontier (Howard Johnson).
Tote Sport.com sponsor the second £20,000 race, a Premier Steeple Chase which highlights the Tote's very generous support of National Hunt racing North of the Border. The Tote are the largest sponsor in British racing and are Kelso's betting partner on a regular basis. This highly competitive 2m 6.5f contest has attracted a tremendously good quality entry. Peter Monteith's Cast Iron Casey has won twice here over hurdles while Donald McCain's Cloudy Lane fell at the first in this race last season. Sa Suffit (James Ewart) and Skippers Brig (Nicky Richards) are two other classy entries.
Terry Frame a very well known and highly respected joiner sponsors the second race on the card at 2.30pm, a 2 mile Novice Hurdle. This popular family business has been rewarded with a huge entry in what promises to be an open contest. Donald McCain is enjoying a rich vein of form and he has the choice of Black Apache and Twentynineblack. The large entry of 38 also sees leading 2009 Scottish National Hunt Trainer Lucinda Russell pair Against The Wind and Long Distance in this competitive Hurdle race.
The Hunter Chase is sponsored to commemorate the great Rugby Legend Bill McLaren and is titled "The Man That oo ca' Bill" a strong contest will see Ex-handicappers First Look and Bow School, who were both placed on their first hunter chase runs for Gavin and Alison Hamilton, the Hawick couple will be hoping for more of the same. Vicky Simpson's Jacksonville has winning hunter chase form at Kelso and is the senior member of the entries at 13.
The final race on the card at 5.20pm is the 2m 6 ½ f Handicap Hurdle which is also kindly sponsored by the Tote, to round off a very successful day. Jedburgh's Harriet Graham, who is well through her clerk of the course training program, could go close if Jane Doe recaptures the form that saw her successful at Newcastle in the autumn. Super Ally, named after the former Scotland and Rangers striker Ally McCoist, could make his handicap debut for Ray Green and Andrew Parker.
The Austrailan Horse Gorge who was due to have a prep race at Kelso before going on to Cheltenham has sadly had a set back and will not run at either course. His stable companion who travelled over with him will still hope to come to Kelso and school after racing, as his owners have planned their itinerary from Australia to Kelso specifically to see the horse perform and will be in attendance.