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Friday 6th April

This time next week we will know the identity of the winner of the Randox Health Grand National and is it too much to hope for another Scottish trained success?

After the memorable triumph of One For Arthur twelve months ago all the very best wishes go to Captain Redbeard and Seeyouatmidnight representing the borders stables of Stuart Coltherd and Sandy Thomson and the main thing is that both horses come back safe and sound.

Stuart has already enjoyed success over the big fences as Tartan Snow landed the 2013 Fox Hunters’ Chase at 100/1 with Jamie Hamilton in the saddle.

And the Thomson family have an Aintree pedigree too as Sandy’s grandfather bred MacMoffatt who was runner-up in the 1939 and 1940 Grand Nationals.

Just a week after Aintree, all eyes will be focused on Ayr for the two-day Coral Scottish Grand National festival and SGN day has been sold out for ages.

Entries for the SGN and the Scottish Champion Hurdle came out recently and they included plenty of star names among the horses and the trainers.

Vicente, trained by Paul Nicholls, could attempt for a slice of history in the Ayr marathon by bidding to win the race for the third time on the bounce.

The last horse to land the race on three consecutive occasions was Couvrefeu II in 1911, 1912 and 1913 and Vicente is one of 78 entries in this year’s race.

Vicente first won the race in 2016 as a seven year-old and repeated the feat last year with Sam Twiston-Davies riding on both occasions.

Cogry and Benbens, both trained by Sam’s father Nigel, second and third in the race last year also hold entries for the £215,000 contest while Missed Approach, trained by Warren Greatrex and the winner of the Kim Muir at Cheltenham last month looks set for the Ayr feature.

Leading Irish trainer Gordon Elliott, who won the Irish Grand National earlier in the week with General Principle has entered Fagan, owned by Scottish businessman Ronnie Bartlett, and Folsom Blue.

Westcountry trainer Colin Tizzard, whose Native River recently won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, holds five entries including Sizing Codelco and Sizing Tennessee and Lucinda Russell will attempt to win her first ever Coral Scottish Grand National with the highly talented Big River.

Champion trainer Nicky Henderson has three entries with the most notable being Beware The Bear, fourth in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last month.

The main supporting contest on the day, the £105,000 QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle has attracted 49 entries with some very highly rated hurdlers among them.

Last year’s winner Chesterfield, from the Seamus Mullins yard, is set to defend his crown while the 2016 winner Ch’tibello trained by Dan Skelton also holds an entry, and others that take the eye include the Nicky Henderson trained Jenkins and Kevin Ryan’s progressive five year old Beyond The Clouds.

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news

 

 

 

It’s the opening day of the 2018 Scottish Flat season at Musselburgh tomorrow, but there is still plenty of quality jumping to come starting with a terrific card at Kelso a week tomorrow.

As with Musselburgh, the ITVRacing cameras will be screening the action and the feature races are the £50,000 Liz Adam Memorial Handicap Chase and the Belhaven Best Handicap Hurdle and the Edinburgh Gin Handicap Hurdle both of which are worth £40,000.

Last year’s corresponding meeting saw wins for Lucinda Russell’s Big River and Venetia Williams-trained Yala Enki and both have enjoyed a decent amount of success since.

New Managing Director, Jonathan Garratt, has done a great job since moving to Kelso from Cartmel in the Summer and he has plans to move the paddock further down behind the old grandstand, along with plenty of other ideas to improve facilities at the ‘friendly course’.

Indeed hospitality at the popular Ladies’ Day season finale at the Borders track in late May is already a complete sell out.

It’s less than a fortnight to the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree and Sandy Thomson and Stuart Coltherd are both holding media days ahead of the big day.

Sandy reports Seeyouatmidnight in fine order after his belated seasonal reappearance (his first race since chasing home Big River at Kelso in March) at Newbury last Sunday while Captain Redbeard is the hope of all at Stuart’s Clarilawmuir Farm in the hills above Selkirk.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have tartan ribbons on the Grand National trophy once again after the memorable victory of One For Arthur last spring.

The next racing in Scotland is back at Musselburgh for another Flat meeting on Thursday 5th April with the centrepiece a £13,000 over 7f for horses rated 71-90.

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news.

 

 

 

GREAT news this week that Scotland is likely to have two runners in the £1m Randox Health Grand National on April 14th.

I was hosting the latest forfeit stage at Aintree on Tuesday when 73 horses stood their ground and the names of Seeyouatmignight and Captain Redbeard were among them.
Providing all goes well this weekend it is all systems go for Sandy Thomson’s Seeyouatmidnight while Stuart Coltherd-trained Captain Redbeard will be unlucky not to make the final field of 40 as he is currently number 43 on the list.

Speaking to senior BHA handicapper Phil Smith, who has compiled the weights for his final Grand National, he was sweet on both horses but actually gave his most favourable comment to Captain Redbeard who is still available at 100/1!

Just a week after Aintree the action moves on to Ayr for the Coral Grand National Festival and SGN day itself is completely sold out more than four weeks before the big race.

All Club badges were sold out last weekend and on Wednesday night Grandstand tickets followed suit.

A crowd of just over 17,000 will converge at the track for the second day of the two day Coral Scottish Grand National Festival.

This day features the £215,000 Coral Scottish Grand National and the £105,000 QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle along with a brand new £100,000 novices’ handicap chase.
This is the fourth successive year the Saturday of the Coral Scottish Grand National Festival has been sold out but it is by far the earliest.

There are still Club and Grandstand tickets available for the opening day of the Festival, Ladies Day when the winner of the Best Dressed Ladies Competition will win a prize including three night break to Rome.

The next racing in Scotland takes place at Musselburgh on Saturday when the Flat season opens with a bang north of the border.

A terrific card features the second renewal of the £100,000 Totepool Queen’s Cup over 1m 6f which was conceived for horses being campaigned at the likes of the Chester Cup, Northumberland Plate and Ebor.

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news

 

MORNING WITH IVAN has been in great form since her return to action after having a foal and she won again in the opener at Musselburgh on Friday.

Trained at Otterburn in Northumberland by Susan Corbett, the 9/2 chance slammed The Compeller by seven lengths under the trainer’s son James.

Mrs Corbett said: “It is quite rare for a mare to race again after having a foal but this is the second horse we have done it with. Her foal is now a handsome yearling colt and we’re hoping he will have a bright future.

“Morning With Ivan actually won when she carrying her foal too so she is quite remarkable as this is her third win of the season now. We might look and see if there is something for her at Aintree next month.”
Brian Hughes, leading jockey for the jumps season at Musselburgh completed a 77/1 with Nefyn Bay, Blunder Buss and Sporting Press.
WELL done to Hamilton Park for picking up a prestigious award from the Racegoers Club earlier this week.

The Lanarkshire track, where racing in 2018 gets underway on Sunday May 6th, was voted Best Racecourse in Scotland and the North by members of the Official Club of British Racegoers.

Hamilton Park executives would have been delighted to hear the Racegoers Club describe their venue as “a great racecourse with a friendly atmosphere and helpful staff.”

It was also announced recently that Hamilton Park and Musselburgh, along with Goodwood and York, are joining ‘The Silk Series’ in the coming Flat season.

Launched across nine different tracks in 2017, The Silk Series is a pioneering initiative that gives female jockeys opportunities on popular Summer racedays while also raising awareness for Cancer Research UK.

The final of the series is staged at Doncaster’s St Leger Festival and the trophy is named in honour of Meriel Tufnell, the first woman to ride a winner under rules in British racing in 1972.

Last year it was won by Megan Nicholls and Hollie Doyle will again again be the series’ ambassador.

The countdown to the 2018 Cheltenham Festival is nearly over and Racing UK have it completely covered! Here are some facts about Racing UK’s coverage of the most exciting four days in Jumps racing:

–              Racing UK is the only channel showing ALL 28 races live from the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

–              Racing UK will broadcast 9.5 hours of live HD coverage every day starting at 10am from the course – that’s 38 hours in total!

–              Racing UK will be showing full race replays after racing each day so you can catch up on all the action after live racing.

–              Racing UK don’t interrupt their coverage with long ad breaks so you get even more insight and in-depth interviews with owners, trainers and jockeys.

What’s more, you can take The Festival with you wherever you are with racinguk.com as you can watch on TV, tablet and mobile – so you never need to miss a race or that all important preview or bit of analysis.

Racing UK really do have it all covered, so make sure you’re Cheltenham ready with complete coverage on Racing UK.  Join Racing UK and call 0845 111 64411 (UK) / 0818 776 779 (ROI) or join online by visiting racinguk.com/join LINK

 

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news

 

HATS off the Ayr for pulling out all stops to make sure Monday’s card beat the weather and young rider Ross Chapman was mighty grateful the meeting did get the green light as he booted home a magnificent 1231/1 four-timer.

It cost the course several thousand pounds, in manpower and miles of protective fleece, to cover the entire track but in the end it was money well spent.
Chapman is based with Iain Jardine and it says a lot for the young conditional that he felt he should also have won on his other ride which saw him beaten less than a length by Richard Johnson!

Meanwhile the first two day weekend meeting of 2018 at Ayr takes place on Friday and Saturday with totepool Raceday followed by Tennent’s Raceday.

Coming as it does just a few days before the start of the Cheltenham Festival this fixture always attracts a bit of attention and this year sees a significant boost in the prize-money on offer with more than £140,000 up for grabs over the two days.

Friday’s feature race is the Class 3 totesport.com handicap chase run over two miles for and a half furlongs, a contest won last year by the Nick Alexander trained Gold Opera.
Other interesting races on the card include the toteexacta handicap hurdle over two miles four and a half furlongs and the two mile handicap hurdle which is run for the James Barclay Trophy.

Saturday’s card is dominated by three Class 3 contests – the Tennent’s Lager Handicap Chase over two miles and half a furlong, the Caledonia Best Handicap Hurdle for the Craigie Cup which is run over two miles four and a half furlongs and the Magners Handicap Chase for the Hugh Barclay Challenge Trophy which is a three mile race.
The Craigie Cup was won in 2017 by Desert Cry, trained by Donald McCain and ridden by Brian Hughes and this trainer and jockey combination are likely to have several fancied runners on the day.

The countdown to the 2018 Cheltenham Festival is nearly over and Racing UK have it completely covered! Here are some facts about Racing UK’s coverage of the most exciting four days in Jumps racing:
– Racing UK is the only channel showing ALL 28 races live from the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
– Racing UK will broadcast 9.5 hours of live HD coverage every day starting at 10am from the course – that’s 38 hours in total!
– Racing UK will be showing full race replays after racing each day so you can catch up on all the action after live racing.
– Racing UK don’t interrupt their coverage with long ad breaks so you get even more insight and in-depth interviews with owners, trainers and jockeys.

What’s more, you can take The Festival with you wherever you are with racinguk.com as you can watch on TV, tablet and mobile – so you never need to miss a race or that all important preview or bit of analysis.

Racing UK really do have it all covered, so make sure you’re Cheltenham ready with complete coverage on Racing UK. Join Racing UK and call 0845 111 64411 (UK) / 0818 776 779 (ROI) or join online by visiting racinguk.com/join LINK
Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news

 

I’M hearing the Premier Chase at Kelso on Saturday is building up to be quite a race.

Scotland’s two Grand National entries, Seeyouatmidnight and Captain Redbeard, are both on course for the Listed prize and they are set to be joined by southern raider Bristol De Mai.
Nigel Twiston-Davies is sending his wide-margin Betfair Chase hero to the Scottish borders as a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Aintree Bowl in April.

His owners, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, are no strangers to Kelso as they saw their light and dark green colours carried to victory by Top Notch in the 2016 Morebattle Hurdle.

And it won’t be the first time Sandy Thomson’s Seeyouatmidnight has clashed with Bristol De Mai. The pride of Greenlaw slammed his southern rival by twelve lengths at Carlisle three years ago when Brian Hughes said he had never stormed up the famous hill so strongly in a chase!

There’s a fair few Scottish-owned horses in the Grand National with Hawick-born Graham Wylie likely to be represented by Bellshill while Borders couple Paul and Clare Rooney have several entries including The Last Samuri who was runner-up two years ago.

Airdrie businessman Ronnie Bartlett is sure to see Willie Mullins-trained Rathvinden get a run off 10st 9lb while the ‘Auroras Encore’ winning National colours of Jim Beaumont and Douglas Pryde are set to be carried by Maggio.

North Queensferry-based Dan and Michelle MacDonald are only single-handed now with Silsol, trained by Paul Nicholls, as I gather Warriors Tale has been sold to three-time Grand National-winning owner Trevor Hemmings.

Fingers crossed the cold weather doesn’t interfere with Ayr tomorrow or Musselburgh which stages its final jumps fixture of the season on Wednesday.

Dan Skelton has a few entries at Ayr and he will be looking to build on an already decent strike-rate of nearly 25 per cent.

Hats off to Stuart Coltherd’s Surprise Vendor as he could be making the 97th appearance (Flat and jumps) of his career in the Biggest Jumps Season On Racing UK Handicap Hurdle.

The popular 12-year-old will get an extra special cheer when he hopefully becomes racing’s latest centurion.

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news

*********

FOLLOWING recent reports in the media regarding Musselburgh Racecourse, Scottish Racing stresses the importance of a healthy Musselburgh to racing in Scotland, and praises the work of the current management team at the racecourse.

The East Lothian Council (ELC) has informed racecourse staff of their preference that all employees cease to be employed by the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee, and instead be placed on the ELC payroll. This preference will be ratified at a Council meeting to be held on 27th February 2018.

Scottish Racing Manager, Delly Innes, said “Musselburgh Racecourse is hugely important to Scottish Racing. Under Chief Executive Bill Farnsworth’s excellent leadership, he and his efficient and dedicated team have developed Musselburgh Racecourse into a VisitScotland 5* attraction, which is ranked within the top 10% of all attractions in Scotland, and has been awarded Gold Standard Status by the Racehorse Owners’ Association for a number of consecutive years”.
“Under its current management team, Musselburgh Racecourse has seen massive improvement and progress, and we very much hope that the council will take into account the views of the racecourse staff and the racing industry, as to how the racecourse is governed”.

 

Meanwhile it was jumps racing at its best on Kelso on Thursday when Cyrus Darius and Big River won the feature races.

An appreciative borders crowd gave a warm reception to both horses as they were led back in and it was great to see such nice jumpers on parade overall.

The win of Cyrus Darius, landing the Morebattle Hurdle for the second year running, was a real poignant affair as it was the first winner for Ruth Jefferson since the death of her father Malcolm.

I’m sure Ruth will do her dad proud and she certainly has a lovely team at her disposal. She said afterwards that Cyrus Darius will mix and match hurdles and fences but it will come as a surprise if a hat-trick attempt in the ‘Morebattle’ is not on the cards for next year.

Incidentally he is co-owned by Scots-born Graham Calder whose colours have been carried by some decent types over the years. Graham and his wife were all all smiles in the winners’ enclosure afterwards accompanied by their two dogs.

The canine theme continued in the next race, the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase, which went to Lucinda Russell’s Big River owned by Two Black Labs! As mentioned in this column before Debs Thomson (one of the Two Golf Widows of One For Arthur fame), is behind the ownership and the colours sported by Derek Fox feature the silhouette of a black labrador with paw prints on the sleeves and cap.

Debs also took her beloved Labs, Dom and Louis, in the winners’ enclosure where they were presented with dog biscuits!

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news.

 

KELSO report

By Gordon Brown

CYRUS DARIUS gained an emotional success in the Timeform Morebattle Hurdle to supply Ruth Jefferson with her first winner since the death of her father Malcolm.

Brian Hughes, successful earlier on aboard Taxmeifyoucan, was always confident on the 5/2 chance who slammed Better Getalong by twelve lengths to win the prestigious event for the second year running.

Ruth Jefferson said: “I’m delighted with that as the horses have all been running well. He’s a lovely big horse and we’re not ruling out going back over fences. We’ve no plans but I’d say we’ll mix and match it with him hurdling and chasing.”

Big River saw off Shantou Flyer in pleasing style to land the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase by four and a half lengths in the hands of Derek Fox.

Winning trainer Lucinda Russell said: “He loves it round here as that’s five wins from six visits. He’s in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham but I’m not sure if that’s the race for him. I’m delighted to win this race as Major Straker gave me a valuable reference when I applied for a licence some twenty years ago.”

 

IT’S an interesting card at Ayr today and I’m looking forward to seeing Grand Morning returning to the scene of last month’s course and distance victory.
He’s owned by J P McManus and trained by Lucinda Russell who reports him as an exciting prospect.

In the previous race it’s good to see Gold Cup winning Nico de Boinville in attendance to ride hat-trick seeking Divine Spear – a JLT Novices’ Chase entry – for his boss Nicky Henderson.

It’s also a busy mid-week in Scotland with action at Ayr on Tuesday, Musselburgh on Wednesday and Kelso on Thursday.

I’m particularly looking forward to Kelso as it’s Morebattle Hurdle day which is always a cracking afternoon.

The Morebattle is a quality race with a rich history and has duly been won by some classy horses.

Jinxy Jack, trained by the late Gordon Richards, won four renewals in-a-row between 1990 and 1993 while Oliver Sherwood’s Large Action was successful in 1995 before chasing home Alderbrook in the Champion Hurdle five weeks later.

Subsequent multiple Grade 1 chase winner Direct Route, trained by Howard Johnson, took the race under Paul Carberry in 1996 and there was a massive upset four years later when the County Durham trainer’s Quwetwo floored Nicky Henderson’s 14-1 ON hot favourite Zaymar.

Peddlers Cross was the 2011 hero for Donald McCain the season after his memorial victory at the Cheltenham Festival and twelve months later it was the turn of Simonsig, another Henderson raider who ended up a dual Festival scorer.

The Richards’ stable has been a great supporter of the Morebattle Hurdle – Nicky won it in 2015 with Glingerburn and 2013 with Duke Of Navan while One For Harry has been runner-up for the past two years, most recently to Cyrus Darius saddled by Malcolm Jefferson who sadly passed away last month.
This year Nicky Richards hopes to run Better Getalong, a highly thought of young hurdler who has been placed at Cheltenham in Grade 2 company already this season.

He carries the colours of David Wesley Yates, an owner best known for his association with spring-heeled grey Monet’s Garden who happened to win a bumper at Kelso during his formative years.

 

MUSSELBURGH report

By Gordon Brown

WE HAVE A DREAM extended his winning sequence to four on the final afternoon of Musselburgh’s Cheltenham Trials fixture yesterday.

Nicky Henderson was in attendance to see the 1/5 favourite beat persistent challenger Act Of Valour by four and a half lengths in the bet365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle.

The Seven Barrows trainer said: “He goes for the Triumph at the festival now and it’s great to have two such strong juveniles for the race as him and Apple’s Shakira. It’s a good job I don’t have to chose between them!”

Red River is also hedging for Cheltenham next month after a taking performance for the Kim Bailey/David Bass combination in the Albert Bartlett Scottish Trial Novices’ Hurdle.
Bailey said: “He will be a better horse on better ground and I would expect he would go to the festival after this. It was his first run after a wind operation which involved cauterising his palette so I thought it was a good performance.”

Kevin Ryan-trained Beyond The Clouds was also making it four wins on the bounce when scrambling home by a neck in the Sky Bet Supreme Scottish Trial Novices’ Hurdle.

Winning jockey Brian Hughes said: “We were worried about the soft ground and he could go to Kelso next for the Premier Hurdle as he’s won there before. He was getting a bit lonely out in front and he might turn out to be an Aintree horse later in the spring.”

MUSSELBURGH report

By Gordon Brown

RACHAEL McDONALD was the toast of Musselburgh on Saturday after landing the Edinburgh National on 10/1 chance Full Jack.
Sandy Thomson’s Greenlaw raider was left clear when Looking Well ran out at the last and he passed the line nine lengths ahead of Missed Approach.
McDonald, who needs one more win to lose her 7lb claim, said: “We might have been a bit lucky but that racing for you. He has enjoyed himself since he came to us and we’ve been trying to keep him sweet.
“He was a bit hesitant to go on the gallops initially but he’s fine now. I gave him a positive ride and he jumped away great.”
In form Bryony Frost was another female jockey to shine as she bagged the Scottish Champion Chase on Marracudja for her boss Paul Nicholls.
“I had my first ever winner under Rules in the hunter chase on this day here three years ago and it’s amazing what has happened since,” Frost said.
The Queen’s Forth Bridge looked like springing an upset in the Scottish County Hurdle before being reeled in late on by Donald McCain-trained Dear Sire.
Borders couple Paul and Clare Rooney saw their colours carried to victory by well-backed favourite Barney Dwan in the Scottish Future Champions Novices’ Chase.
The five-length scorer was a first course success for Cheltenham trainer Fergal O’Brien.

 

Friday 2nd February

Some off the biggest names in national hunt racing will be in attendance at Musselburgh this weekend for the Scottish venue’s Cheltenham Trials fixture.

I hear champion jumps trainer Nicky Henderson along with Paul Nicholls and Warren Greatrex are heading to East Lothian in person along with leading jockeys Harry Cobden, Briony Frost, Daryl Jacob, Nico De Boinville and Jonathan Burke.

Despite the counter attraction of the Dublin Racing Festival over at Leopardstown, both days have been largely unaffected and, as Henderson said, horses will always rock up for the less testing Musselburgh ground with the Cheltenham festival only around five weeks away.

Seven Barrows-based Henderson has a decent record at the meeting and he has three runners today – We Have A Dream, Claimantakinforgan and Mr Whipped. The trio boast classy form and could all play a major part in next month’s festival.

Meanwhile Behindthelines has been doing connections proud in two starts under Rules and it’s all in a very good cause.

Trained by Lucinda Russell and representing a six-strong partnership known as ‘London Scots For Doddie’, all prize money earned by the gelding will be pledged to Doddie Weir’s research fund into motor neurone disease.

Having come third on his debut at Kelso in mid-January, with Doddie in attendance, the six-year-old came within an ace of a glorious victory when only going under by three-quarters of a length at Ayr on Wednesday.

Behindthelines runs in the same colours as rugby union side London Scottish and it is surely only a matter of time before he goes one better.

Former Scotland international Weir announced last summer that he had been diagnosed with MD and launched the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation to raise funds and investigate causes and potential cures for the condition.

Finally this week it was sad to hear Malton trainer Malcolm Jefferson had passed away at the age of 71 on Friday.

Malcolm’s first winner in 37-year career with a licence came in 1981 when Mark Edelson won a bumper at Perth.

Several Cheltenham and Aintree winners came through his very capable hands after that and he had quite a few Scottish owners down the years.
His daughter Ruth takes over reins and I wish her all the best.

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news.

 

 

ALL road lead to Musselburgh next weekend for the Cheltenham Trials fixture which is staged on Saturday and Sunday.
It all started 14 years ago with the Scottish County Hurdle and since then the meeting has evolved significantly with tartan versions of the Triumph Hurdle, Albert Bartlett Hurdle, Supreme Hurdle, Champion Chase and Foxhunter Chase.
Both days boast over £100,000 in prize money and the Saturday feature is the Edinburgh National over 4m which sees the runners pass the winning post no less than four times.
This year there is the counter attraction of the newly conceived Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown but Musselburgh officials are confident the East Lothian venue will still be well supported.
Despite the difference in configuration between the two tracks, it’s amazing how many horses have run well at Musselburgh before going close or winning races at the Cheltenham Festival.
Looking further ahead it was great to see Grand National-bound Seeyouatmidnight in such good form on the gallops at Sandy Thomson’s the other morning.
‘Midnight’, who is owned by his wife Quona, is set to make his belated seasonal reappearance at Kelso in early March and Sandy is licking his lips in anticipation at his Berwickshire raider tackling the big Aintree fences on April 14.
His back form is certainly looking pretty solid and his comprehensive defeat of Bristol De Mai at Carlisle last season is out of the top drawer.
I also paid a visit to Lucinda Russell’s yard and Grand National hero One For Arthur was looking pretty pleased with himself.
He’s had four months box rest but looks in terrific order after some gentle walking and he will shortly be getting light exercise.
His comeback will be geared towards the 2019 Grand National and I hear he will hopefully return to action at Kelso in the autumn.
Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news.

 

I’VE always been a big follower of Callum Bewley so it was nice to see him start 2018 off in style with a double at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day.

Last season’s northern champion conditional really shone on Uptown Funk and Sir Chauvalin who both carry the well known colours of Scottish owner Jimmy Fyffe.

Callum very much remains a young rider to keep on your side and I know Jim Goldie is a massive fan.

Good as well to see other capable Scots pilots such as Grant Cockburn, Blair Campbell, Tom Willmott, Jamie Hamilton and Callum Whillans get on the scoreboard so early in the New Year.

Ayr’s card on the 2nd was the first of a record 37 fixtures scheduled for the track this year. It can be done on the all-weather venues but there are only a few turf courses in the UK that stages anything like that number of days and one of them is Newmarket which, in infect, has two separate tracks!

Speaking to the team at Ayr this week they are certainly relishing the challenge.
Clerk of the course Graeme Anderson, a former head groundsman, knows the track like the back of his hand and was telling me the course has only had ten dry days since last summer.

Surely 2018 won’t be as soggy as 2017.

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news

 

Musselburgh preview

By Gordon Brown

SILVER CONCORDE is one of the class acts on parade on Musselburgh New Year’s Day.

The winner of the 2014 Champion Bumper at Cheltenham when he was Dermot Weld, he faces six rivals in the Totepool Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle.
He changed hands for 33,000 euros at the sales last autumn and has won both starts at the East Lothian venue since joining Keith Dalgleish.

His current owner is Richard Gilbert of Straightline Construction who said: “Keith has done a fantastic job with him as he hasn’t had him too long long. We were basically trying to get his confidence back as he had probably gone a bit sour.

“This is a much better race for him than the two he won but we know he handles the track well. It’s possible we may think about handicaps at Cheltenham or Aintree later on.”

One of Silver Concorde’s opponents is Jim Goldie’s Sir Chauvelin who has enjoyed an excellent year on the Flat and returns to the scene of his two wins over hurdles.

The meeting also features the 149th renewal of the historic New Year Sprint for professional athletes with a £4,000 first prize up for grabs.

 

 

 

Friday 29th December

Kelso is the latest Scottish course to announce massive prize money increases for next year.

In 2018 over £1.2m will be up for grabs, a jump of some 26 per cent and the average value of a race at the borders venue now sits proudly at £12,200.

It promises to be quite a year at Kelso as it will also stage its most valuable ever card. £166,000 will be on offer on April 7 when the track will play host to ITV Racing’s main coverage.

All good news especially coming off the back of the course losing its last two meetings of 2017 due to the weather.

A wee bird tells me that contingency plans were looked at to re-run Friday’s abandoned fixture today (Sunday) but there were too many stumbling blocks in the way.

Kelso’s first action of the New Year is set for January 14 and the track are anticipating releasing news of significant investment in the facilities which could start in the summer.

There’s no better way to blow away the Hogmanay cobwebs than a visit to Musselburgh on New Year’s Day.

Looking at the entries some of the top trainers could be represented including Paul Nicholls, Kim Bailey and Tom George.

The first race of 2018 in Scotland is a juvenile hurdle and looks a cracker.

It was won last year by the useful Project Bluebook whose trainer John Quinn this time saddles Je Suis Charlie, a horse of whom the Malton trainer rates highly.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Keith Dalgleish to see which of his three entries – Rita’s Man, Take The High Road and Uptown Funk – that he runs.

Musselburgh will be the scene of Keith first runners of 2018 and he will be keen to hit the blocks running after sending out over 100 winners last year.

Speaking of running the meeting also features the 149th renewal of the historic New Year Sprint for professional athletes. It should be quite a day.

And racing keeps going north of the border with a decent meeting at Ayr on Tuesday before returning to Musselburgh on Wednesday.

 

Sunday 24th December

We hear there are some exciting entries set for Kelso next Friday when the Borders venues stages the final action of the year in Scotland.

The feature race is the £12,000 Children’s Immunology Novices’ Chase and the word is highly-regarded Jonniesofa expected to be in the line-up for the 2m 6f contest.

Jonniesofa is a Grade 2 winning hurdler for Rose Dobbin and he emerged from a 19-month absence to score at Carlisle on his bow over fences in October.

Nick Alexander could be the trainer to follow as he was telling me the other day he hopes to saddle a few runners including course specialist Landecker in the concluding amateur riders’ hurdle. Landecker has four career wins to his name and they were all achieved at Kelso.

As the racing north of the border comes to an end for 2017, it isn’t long until we start 2018 with a real swing at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day, followed by Ayr on the 2nd and then back at Musselburgh on the 3rd.

The opening meeting at Musselburgh features the historic New Year Sprint for professional athletes in addition to some fabulous national hunt racing including the £40,000 Hogmaneigh Hurdle.

And it should be great stuff at Ayr as well with the seven-race card including the valuable Racing UK Winter Season Ticket Handicap Hurdle over 2m 5f.

We praised the BHA last week for staging an extra meeting at Musselburgh and the same body helped trigger an additional card at short notice at Ayr on Friday.

In light of all the cold weather cancellations it was a welcome outlet for trainers in the north to give their horses a much needed outing to stretch their legs.

Scottish trainers certainly grabbed the opportunity with both hands as five of the seven races went to tartan handlers Sandy Thomson, Ian Duncan, Mike Smith and James Ewart who landed a quick-fire double in the last two races.

Huge plaudits must go to Perth for today’s (Sunday) revelation of a massive prize money injection in 2018.

A 35% increase from last year will see the 15 meetings worth a staggering £1.25m, meaning the Scone venue has crashed through the million pound barrier for the first time in its long and proud history.

As a result average prize money at Britain’s most northerly racecourse will increase to £11,500 from £8,500.

 

Friday 15th December

Well done to the BHA for swiftly triggering an additional fixture at Musselburgh on Monday, after the recent spate of abandonments in the north and Scotland in particular.

The loss of Kelso’s Scottish Borders National card last Sunday was quickly followed by the cancellation of meetings at Musselburgh on Monday and Ayr on Tuesday due to the cold snap.

No doubt the seven-race programme will be well-supported with so many horses being denied an outing and plenty of trainers have rightly applauded the initiative.

It was a shame to lose Kelso as the Borders National fixture is one of the highlights of the season so hopefully the big race itself can be salvaged at some point.

And fair play to clerk of the course Graeme Anderson and his team at Ayr for pulling out all the stops only to be beaten by two nights of hard frost in a row. At considerable cost, the track had been completely covered in fleece-like material since last Thursday but when temperatures dip to -6c or -7c there is sometimes nothing more you can do.

With our success in big races this year – the Grand National and the Ebor – I was wondering how long it might be until a Scottish-born trainer lands the biggest prize of all – the Derby.

Mark Johnston’s ill-fated Permian was fourth favourite for this year’s Epsom Classic only to finish 10th and I see Aberfoyle-born Mark and Edinburgh-born Hugo Palmer have a few entries for next year’s Derby.

Hugo, who was brought up in deepest Berwickshire, holds the strongest hand at the moment with The Revenant who is currently as short as 33/1 in some ante-post lists.

The Dubawi colt looked a nice prospect in his two races this season so here’s hoping he trains on to be a top-notch three-year-old in 2018.

The shortlist for the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards was announced recently and, fingers crossed, there will be good news for our part of the country when the winners are announced in London in February.

In the various categories all the best goes to Kim Walker (Nick Alexander), Jamie Turnbull (Lucinda Russell), Marjorie Renwick (Harriet Graham), Jamie Duff (Lucinda Russell) and Adam Nish (Musselburgh Racecourse).

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news

 

Friday 8th December 2017

All roads lead to Kelso on Sunday for the Scottish Borders National which is one of the big days of the season at the ‘friendly course’.

The meeting is subject to a precautionary inspection planned for 7.30am due to a cold forecast.

It’s also the final pre-Festive fixture at the track and general manager Jonathan Garratt is encouraging racegoers to turn up in their Christmas jumpers.

And there is an incentive as well, because everyone wearing an outrageous garment will be rewarded with a free racecard and the track will donate a further £1 to charity for each jumper on parade.

Marsha made six million guineas at the sales on Tuesday – smashing the previous European auction record – and she has a strong Scottish connection having used the Land O’Burns Stakes at Ayr in 2016 as her springboard to success.

The four-year-old filly, who was trained by Sir Mark Prescott, has since gone on to taste Group 1 glory twice and is now set to be covered by stellar stallion Galileo.

I can’t wait to see their offspring on a racecourse with that sort of pedigree.

Quiet Refection, twice a winner in Scotland for Karl Burke, also raised a few eyebrows after she made 2,100,000gns at the same December Mares Sale.

Like Marsha she is a duel Group 1 winner and she started her career on a winning note at Hamilton Park in 2015. Later that season she landed the Listed Harry Rosebery Stakes at Ayr.

A busy mid-winter spell continues after Kelso with Musselburgh and Ayr racing on Monday and Tuesday respectively.

Fingers crossed all three fixtures will survive the recent cold snap.

The card at Musselburgh is the final action of 2017 at the East Lothian venue and the feature race is a £20,000 juvenile hurdle.

Last year it was won by the Queen’s Forth Bridge and the two entries that stand out are hurdling newcomers Rita’s Man, trained by Keith Dalgleish, and John Quinn’s Je Suis Charlie as both were fairly decent on the Flat.

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news.

 

Friday 1st December

It’s good to see Lucy Alexander back in action at Carlisle tomorrow as she returns from a nasty spill at Hexham last month.

Lucy got badly trampled on in an incident involving Sky Full Of Stars on 10th November and she has a busy comeback afternoon with four booked rides.

They are all trained by her father Nick and first up is old favourite Jet Master in the Northern Lights Two Mile Hurdle Series Final.

Well done to Iain Jardine for scooping the Flat Trainer award at Friday’s Northern Racing Magic Moments dinner in Newcastle.

Carrurtherstown-based Iain landed the award for Nakeeta winning the Ebor – the richest handicap on the level in the UK – at York in August and he received a tremendous reception as he came onto the stage to be presented with a magnificent horse bronze.

Earlier on the One For Arthur team, Lucinda Russell, Derek Fox and Deborah Thomson and Belinda McClung (Two Golf Widows, were honoured with the Special Achievement Award for winning the Grand National on that never-to-be-forgotten afternoon at Aintree in April.

What a year for racing in Scotland with the most valuable handicaps over jumps and on the Flat going to Scottish trainers.

Mention of an award to One For Arthur brings back memories of a special accolade handed out to Auroras Encore, the National hero of 2013 co-owned by Jim Beaumont.

Wishes of a speedy recovery go out to Edinburgh-based Jim who has been undergoing hip replacement surgery and he will no doubt be looking forward to his colours being carried by Harry The Viking in Sunday’s Scottish Borders National at Kelso.

The 12-year-old was given a fine ride by Rachael McDonald when making all twelve months ago and trainer Sandy Thomson has hinted that this may be the veterans’ final race.

In his younger days ‘Harry’ was owned by Sir Alex Ferguson and he has already added to his Borders National success by scrambling home under Rachael at Carlisle last month.

 

Friday 24th November

The awards season is upon us and there is plenty of tartan cheer around this year.

Connections of Grand National hero One For Arthur have been nominated several times as have the Iain Jardine team for their globetrotting Ebor winner Nakeeta.

We also hear Sepal, owned by Ayrshire’s Gordon Thom, is another on the short list for the big Racehorse Owners’ Association bash next month.

Our very own Gordon Brown is co-hosting the star-studded ‘Magic Moments’ dinner in Newcastle on Friday and we can reveal that some of the above Scots plus Jamie Gormley, Rachael McDonald, Callum Bewley, Sandy Thomson and owner William Johnstone have been nominated.

Good luck to them and we’ll let you know how they fared next week.

Sandy Thomson is on the list too due to the exploits of stable star Seeyouatmidnight who is being targeted at the 2018 Grand National.

The pride of Greenlaw is currently sidelined with a minor suspensory problem, but is expected to be back in action shortly after the turn of the year.

Speaking to Sandy recently, he was saying ‘Midnight’ could have his return to action in something like the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso in February as he begins his build up to the world’s greatest steeplechase at Aintree on April 14th.

Wouldn’t it be great to keep the prize in Scotland after the wonderful success of One For Arthur.

Tom Willmott was mud splattered but happy as he celebrated his first victory in a chase against professionals at Hexham on Lowanbehold on Wednesday.

The 17-year-old from Selkirk was an amateur with Stuart Coltherd before joining Lucinda Russell as a conditional pilot.

He had his first win in a hurdle at Ayr earlier this autumn and he already has a fair bit of experience from riding in point to points and hunter chases.

We recently highlighted Keith Dalgleish reaching a hundred winners for the first time and now his former boss Mark Johnston is on the verge of a new personal best for a calendar year.

The Aberfoyle-born trainer is enjoying the 24th consecutive year with a three figure total and he is now about to beat his previous highest domestic score of 216 which he achieved in both 2009 and 2013.

A remarkable achievement for a man who is proud of his Scottish roots and is a non-executive director at Hamilton Park.

Racing at Ayr on Monday has been abandoned, but will go ahead at Musselburgh on Thursday.

There are decent entries for Musselburgh, so fingers crossed the forecast is kind with all wet and cold weather we’ve been having.

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news.

 

Friday 17th November

Best wishes go to Lucy Alexander as she recovers from a nasty spill at Hexham last Friday when she suffered concussion after being badly trampled by several flying hooves.

According to her dad Nick, the former champion conditional pilot was in good spirits but confirmed she is not the best at watching racing from an armchair especially when two of her intended rides won at Kelso on Saturday!

Hopefully Lucy will be back in action in the next week or so as her two main stables, Nick’s and the James Ewart yard, have both been in decent form lately.

I hear another young lady, Katie Scott, has been granted a Flat licence to train from her base which is situated between Galashiels and Selkirk.

Katie was jumping for joy after Chain Of Beacons, under a nice ride from Callum Bewley, won at Kelso on just his second start for new connections.

The ex-Sandy Thomson trained gelding was Katie’s first success since Benefit In Kind scored at Musselburgh on January 20th.

Keith Dalgleish became the first Scottish-based trainer to reach 100 winners in a calendar year when Chanceanotherfive landed the bumper at Newcastle on Friday.

The Carluke handler has enjoyed 84 wins on the Flat plus 16 under national hunt Rules and there are still six weeks of 2017 remaining!

A tremendous feat.

On a sad note many of northern racing’s finest paid their last respects at the funeral of former

dual-purpose handler Mary Reveley this week.

Numerically she was the UK’s most successful female trainer of all time and she retired with a career total of 2,010 winners.

It was nice to hear her say a few years ago that Kelso was one of her favourite racecourses and that wasn’t her only Scottish connection as she had many owners from north of the border while her long-time stable jockey was Broughty Ferry-born Peter Niven.

A big well done goes to all the team at Hamilton Park as the Lanarkshire track scooped the Owners’ Experience at Thursday night’s glittering RCA Showcase Awards bash.

It was deserved recognition for the investment in the owners’ facilities and in an extremely competitive category as well.

Finally this week five-time champion jockey Willie Carson celebrated his 75th birthday on Thursday.

It only seems like yesterday that the wee man from Stirling was booting home big name Derby winners such as Nashwan, Troy and Erhaab while the St Leger came his way aboard Dunfermline, Sun Princess and Minster Son, a colt he also bred.

Before hanging up his saddle in 1996, Willie passed 100 winners in a season an incredible 23 times and won no less than 17 British Classics.

A proper Scottish racing legend.

 

Friday 10th November

Nakeeta did his connections, and Scotland, proud when galloping home an honourable fifth in the Melbourne Cup early on Tuesday morning.

Coming from well off the pace, Iain Jardine’s Dumfriesshire raider stayed on right to the line where he was six and half lengths adrift of Joseph O’Brien-trained winner Rekindling.

Ridden by South African-born jockey Glyn Schofield, the six-year-old did best of those racing in the rear group and picked up a cool £103,000 for his efforts.

Speaking from Australia, Jardine said: “It was a great performance and the wee horse has run a great race. He didn’t get in a position to win but he stayed on well.

“It was a good ride from Glyn from a moderate draw and off a slowish pace. He jumped off and said they would definitely have been in the first three with a better draw.

“But I have no complaints as he finished in front of a lot of good horses and I always thought the winner was well-handicapped and one of the main dangers. After all he has been running in Classics and was fourth in the St Leger and second in the Irish equivalent.

“I expect Nakeeta will be back in the UK early next week and then he’ll have a well-deserved holiday. His owners were well pleased with the run but we haven’t really made any plans for next season – handicaps could be tough so maybe Listed races are the way to go.

“He’s seems ok and has come out of the race well. Bruce and Chris Lynn, who have been with him all along, have done a fantastic job with him and he was spot on for the big day.”

A brand new £100,000 race will be staged at the Coral Scottish Grand National Festival at Ayr in April bringing prize-money on the day to more than £550,000.

Sitting alongside the £215,000 Scottish National and the £105,000 QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle the three mile open novices’ handicap chase will further enhance the meeting, which is already by far and away Scotland’s richest and most prestigious day’s racing.

The race will be a championship final for novice chasers who to qualify must have finished in the first eight in at least one weight for age novices’ or beginners chase during the 2017-2018 season and will be supported by the BHA’s Development Fund as part of the Fund’s 2018 expenditure.

Speaking of Ayr, it was great see the Craigie venue awarded ‘Gold Standard’ by the Racehorse Owners Association in the large racecourse category for the third year running.

In the small course section well done also goes to Hamilton Park and Musselburgh (both third time winners) and, along with Ayr, they will be in contention for the Racecourse of the Year which will be announced at the ROA Awards in London next month.

 

Friday 3rd November

Nakeeta flies the flag for Scotland in Tuesday’s £3.5 million Melbourne Cup, the ‘race that stops a nation’.

The Dumfriesshire raider, trained at Carrutherstown by Iain Jardine, guaranteed a run in the mega bucks two-mile handicap in which he is set to carry 8st 5lb.

Connections have booked veteran South African-born jockey Glyn Schofield for the ride on a horse that was bred by former international footballer Mick Channon.

Nakeeta, the winner of Britain’s richest Flat handicap – the Betfred Ebor – is a best-priced 20/1 chance for glory in the early hours of Tuesday UK time.

Speaking from Australia, Jardine told me: “There is actually prize money of around £70,000 for coming tenth but I’m hoping we finish a lot closer than that! I’m really pleased with the way he looks and he has taken the journey to the other side of the world in his stride – Bruce and Chris Lynn, who came with him, have done a great job.”

Jardine explained that it was the exploits of last year’s Ebor hero Heartbreak City that persuaded him to send Nakeeta half-way around the world.

The Hawick-born trainer said: “He had a similar profile to us and was only beaten a head into second place. He was carrying a couple of pounds less than we are but it is a really hot race and there are lots of horses in with chances.

“However I’d say I have Nakeeta as well as he was before he won the Ebor. I’m quite confident he will run well but you need a bit of luck. What a feat it would be if we could pull it off.”

Full marks to Vivien Currie and her team as Hamilton Park has unveiled plans for a £10 million hotel development on its grounds.

The 118-guest room property, operating under Hilton’s fastest growing brand, Hampton by Hilton, is to be built on what is currently the main public car park of the racecourse grounds.

It is a project that will bring up to 20 new jobs to the racecourse, doubling the current number of employees, with a variety of roles in managerial, professional, customer service and administrative positions.

The Hamilton Park executive team has undertaken extensive feasibility studies into the development and projects it will generate an additional £5.9million per year in additional visitor expenditure in the area, and add a gross value of £700,000 per year to the economy, with £400,000 of that directly in South Lanarkshire.

And, finally this week, Musselburgh’s jumping season gets underway on Wednesday when the action starts at 12.45. It was of course back in January 1987 that national hunt racing commenced at the popular East Lothian venue.

A total of ten jumps meetings are due to be held in 2017-18 with a total of £640,000 in prize money up for grabs.

Don’t forget to check out our Twitter feed (@ScottishRacing) and www.scottishracing.co.uk for all the latest news.

 

 

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