Scottish Grand National winner Merigo is set for Kelso outing

KELSO racecopurse is set to stage is richest meeting of the season so far on Saturday with a totalm prixe fund of £50,000 on offer.

Racing starts earlier than normal, 12.25pm due to the clocks changing, and gates will open at 10.25am forn the richest meeting staged at Kelso so far this season.

Glen and Cath Lambert sponsor the feature race - The Mayfield Restaurant (Limited Handicap) Steeplechase. The Mayfield is one of Hawick’s most popular venues and this 2m 1f race with a total prize fund of £15,000 always attracts quality horses.

Last year’s winner Stagecoach Pearl recently ran gallantly in defeat in the Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase at Aintree and has been entered by the Sue and Harvey Smith team. Other interesting entries are Idarah, from the Venetia Williams yard, and Tito Bustillo, a recent winner at Carlisle for the Lucinda Russell team.

Berwick business man, Frank Flannigan has very generously sponsored The Flannigan Skip hire handicap steeple Chase. This is Flannigan’s third year of sponsorship at the track.

Dual Scottish Grand National hero Merigo is set to make his seasonal reappearance in this race.

The 11-year-old, trained at Ecclefechan by Andrew Parker and owned by Ray and Anita Green, won the Ayr marathon in 2010, was a narrow runner-up in 2011 and then reclaimed his crown with a memorable win seven months ago.

Parker said: “He’s as well forward as we’ve ever had him for this time of the season and his rating of 140 sees him just squeeze in with top-weight.

“As always he will take time to get into his stride but his campaign will again be geared towards Ayr in April.”

Merigo is one of 15 entries and also featuring aree George Charlton’s three-time Kelso scorer Knockara Beau, Venetia Williams-trained Relax, Strongbows Legend from the in-form Charlie Longsdon yard and Sue Smith’s improving Lackamon.

Garry Mansell of Premier Traffic Management Ltd, are closing in on their tenth year of sponsorship and have received a bumper entry of 39 in their “National Hunt” novices hurdle off at 12.25pm.

Likely runners include Firth Of The Clyde, third recently at Newcastle and owned and bred by Ayrshire-based Robert Goldie. Bonchester Bridge’s Simon Shirley-Beavan is double-handed with ex-point to pointer Rapidolyte De Ladalka and Show Public.

Nick Alexander has his string in very good order this autumn and is represented by recent Kelso second Milano Magic and Buffalo Ballet.

The Edinburgh haulage firm of Graeme Todd sponsor the 3m 3f Handicap Hurdle.

Amateur rider Will Kinsey has entered Alpha Victor who recorded a nice win at Aintree when last seen out in the spring. He was also Will’s first runner under rules when successful at Sedgefield in January.

Harriet Graham has unearthed another money-spinner in the shape of Scotswell, who recorded the sixth win of his career at Newcastle recently.

In addition to British racing signing a £40 million commercial deal to guarantee funding to all 60 UK racetracks over the next five years, Betfair have signed a separate contract with Kelso that will reward stable staff through additional supplementary funds to the ‘Best Turned Out’ award which is gifted to stable hands. This is extended throughout the Kelso season adding over £8,000 to the 81 races that are staged at the racecourse. The winner of each ‘Best Turned Out’ on Saturday will receive a cash prize of £100 courtesy of Betfair.  

John and Fiona Urwin from Foulden sponsored a race in 2010 for a very important birthday and the party was such a success, that they have been persuaded to make it an annual party and sponsor a competitive 2mile 2fg handicap hurdle.

Rose Dobbin has her horses in good order and she has three entries in this – Mountskip, Oscar Stanley and Snooker. Jim Goldie has Another for Joe entered who has been running well on the flat in recent months.

Dalkeith hotelier Davy Logan of the Ship Inn has sponsored the Novice Handicap Chase off at 1pm.

The Willie Amos trained What A Dream is due a change of luck as the Hawick visitor was second three times last season. Ballybanks, trained at Newcastle by Robert Johnson, has already been second at Kelso and Sedgefield this term.

The last race is very kindly sponsored by the Simon family from Gosforth. This will be a very poignant memorial race for Stuart Simon who so loved his National Hunt racing.

Bang-in-form Lucinda Russell may let Lucky Sunny go for his hat-trick following wins at Hexham in October and Perth in August. Freddie Brown, owned and bred by Kelso chairman Johnny Jeffreys, could make his 12th appearance at the track where he has won once and never come worse than fourth.