Seven race card for first meeting of year at Kelso

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RACING returns to Kelso with the first meeting of the New Year on Sunday 13th January, where gates open at 10.50am with the first race off at 12.50pm and an exciting seven race card containing the first Hunter Chase of the season.

The feature race of the day is generously sponsored by Aidan Gunning on behalf of Electricity Network Solutions who are based in Selkirk.

The ENS Ltd. Handicap Chase has attracted Gleann Na Ndochchais, a gallant second at Ayr’s New Year meeting, who is sure to run another big race for Hawick handler Alistair Whillans. Jedburgh trainer Harriet Graham was kept busy clerking at Musselburgh over the recent holiday period and she saddles Prince Tam who led for a long way at Kelso last time.

The first race off at 12.50pm is sponsored to celebrate a surprise birthday party at the course. The Novice Hurdle, with a prize fund of £5,000, has attracted a large entry with Rhymers Stone, the last leg of a treble in an Ayr bumper in November, set for his hurdling debut for Melrose owner and racecourse director Geoff Adam. Pass Muster represents Philip Kirby who recently took over the licence at Kate Walton’s Middleham yard.

The trustees of the European Breeders Fund have kindly agreed to sponsor two races on the card, one jointly with the Thoroughbred Breeders Association. This is a Mares only Novice chase which is designed to give owners and breeders an opportunity to increase the value of their mares before retiring them to stud.

The previous Chief Executive of the EBF, Sam Sheppard, who is now in semi-retirement but acts as a consultant for the fund will come up to make the presentations for the British Stallion Studs supporting British Racing EBF “National Hunt” Novice Hurdle which is a qualifier for the final run at Sandown on Saturday March 9.

Winning point to pointer and recent Kelso third Sorcier is an interesting entry from the Bonchester Bridge yard of Simon Shirley-Beavan. Otterburn stud owner Susan Corbett will be hoping for better luck with Blakemans Law, who pulled up when last seen a fortnight ago.

The fifth race off at 2.50pm has been jointly sponsored by Live at the Bar who have taken over the running of the Pavilion Marquee bar this season.

King Kalium won at Ayr recently for Donald and Callum Whillans and the Hawick partnership will be hoping for a quick follow-up. Yetholm-based Sandy Forster has two entries in the shape of Nisaal and See The Legend who won at Ayr last February

Winning chaser Teerie Express could return to fences for Hawick’s George Bewley after a spell hurdling in the 3.20pm two mile seven furlong Handicap Chase. Dukeofchesterwood has shown a good level of form since joining Edinburgh-born Karen McLintock notably when a close second at Sedgefield last month.

The Country Gentleman’s Association have agreed to sponsor the Foxhunters at Cheltenham in March and have also generously agreed to sponsor the first three Hunter Chases at Kelso in 2013.

This is the first time that Kelso has staged a January Hunter Chase and it has attracted a quality line-up for the first Hunters Chase in the UK.

It features the Mark Hughes-trained Special Portrait, the winner of his last four races in this grade. Jimmy Walton’s Highland Cathedral returns to the scene of his triumph last spring in the Buccleuch Cup. The Victor Thompson-trained Tommysteel is another with winning hunter chase form at Kelso last spring.

Clerk of the Course Hazel Peplinski, head groundsman Brian Meikle and his groundstaff team of Logan Knox and David Greer have done a tremendous job of getting the course back after racing over Christmas.

The team at Kelso have been rewarded by being voted Best Small Racecourse in Scotland & the North East by the Racegoers Club.