RACEGOERS will get an early opportunity to see several of the top contenders for this season’s Grand National steeplechase at Kelso Racecourse this Saturday.
They will line up for the Paxtons Exclusively Kverneland handicap steeplechase.
One For Arthur won this race en route to his famous victory in the 2017 Grand National.
While Lucinda Russell bids to repeat the feat on Saturday, the Fife trainer has also given an entry to Big River who could be Aintree-bound after his placed effort at the Cheltenham Festival last season and a fine fifth in the Scottish Grand National.
Vintage Clouds, who was placed in both the Scottish and Welsh Grand Nationals before falling at the first at Aintree last season, is one of two entries for Sue Smith.
The other is Sharp Response who was last seen winning the North Yorkshire National at Catterick.
Sharing top weight with One For Arthur is Blue Flight, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Carrying the colours of Dundee United director Jimmy Fyffe, the immense gelding won twice and was runner-up on his previous visits to Kelso in the spring.
Add in Stuart Coltherd’s stable star Captain Redbeard, the J P McManus-owned Irish raider Drumcliff, last year’s winner Dandy Dan, Michael Scudamore’s Mysteree (twice a runner-up in the Eider Chase) and the promising Jonniesofa among 13 entries and a mouthwatering race is in prospect.
The eight-race programme of National Hunt races, starting at 1.20pm, will be preceded by two pony races for aspiring young jockeys.
The first jump race is a maiden hurdle which has attracted a huge entry of 38 horses.
Brian Hughes has ridden the winner in three out of the last five years and whichever mount he chooses should be watched.
Dianne Sayer has trained the winner of the two-mile handicap hurdle on this programme in two of the last three years.
The Cumbrian trainer will be represented by Oceanus who is making his first appearance at Kelso.
Last year’s winner Middlebrow, trained by Donald McCain, is among 10 entries for the Royal Caledonian Hunt handicap steeplechase, as is Nick Alexander’s Benny’s Secret, a four-time course winner over hurdles.
Selkirk-based Katie Scott’s Chain Of Beacons was a close third to Middlebrow 12 months ago and looks likely to reoppose.
Gates open at 11.30pm for the eight-race programme. The final race at 5.15pm will be followed by musical entertainment in the Pavilion Marquee.