The ITV cameras are heading to Kelso on Saturday and our racing expert has run the rule over the four televised races.
1:50 2m7½f (2m7f96y) Sue And Harvey Smith Chase (A Novices’ Limited Handicap) (Class 3) (5yo+ 0-135)
Just the four runners but they’ve all got a chance. Teddy Tee has been knocking on the door of late but he possibly needs the handicapper to loosen his grip, and it could be that Hills Of Dubai and JUST GEORGIE fight out the finish. There was just a length between them when they finished second and third over an extended 2m4f last time and the Sue Smith-trained runner can turn the tables with a 1lb pull and over this longer trip. Naturally, the stable will keen to pocket the not inconsiderable first prize given they are sponsoring. Take Hills’ 11/4.
2:25 2m (2m51y) totescoop6 Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) (4yo+)
Taxmeifyoucan looks the one to beat after winning two of his three starts over hurdles, including over this track and trip last time. The runner-up has since franked the form by winning the competitive EBF Final at Sandown and, only four, he surely has more to offer. However, he looked far from a natural jumper when unseating his rider on his second start over hurdles and while he was better when winning here, it will be tested more fully now taking on handicap rivals. I don’t think he’s particularly well treated either on a mark of 130 and given his stingy price, I’m happy to swerve him.
Hills’ 8/1 on NIETZSCHE is another matter, though, and Brian Ellison’s charge has to be worth a small interest at that price. His form figures of 600 this season don’t really tell the story as he’s been running in some tough handicaps, including the Greatwood at Cheltenham and the Betfair Hurdle won by Kalashnikov last time. He’ll appreciate this easier task then and the assessor has given him a chance by dropping him to a mark just 2lb higher than when third in last season’s Fred Winter. That was on good to soft ground but he’s better with even more cut and will be in his element this afternoon.
3:00 3m2f (3m2f39y) Liz Adam Memorial Handicap Chase (Class 2) (5yo+)
Baywing is up 9lb for his stylish Eider win and that might not be enough to stop him as he’s clearly a strong stayer and loves it when the mud is flying. He makes more appeal than last year’s winner Yala Enki, whose hard races are mounting up, and the accident prone Wild West Wind (recent form figures of FRU).
However, there are a couple further down the weights who could have a say in proceedings, including the teenager Harry The Viking. The winner of the 4m Borders National here last season, he has shown he retains all his ability in two runs this term and he goes really well for 7lb claimer Rachel McDonald. With a feather weight on his back, it’s not hard to see him running into the places to reward each-way backers at bet365’s 12/1.
But the headline tip has to be Richard Hobson’s CHIC NAME after his commendable fifth in the Cross-Country Chase (3m6f) at the Cheltenham Festival, belying his 100/1 price tag. That was a different discipline of course but he’s got bits of form over conventional fences to suggest he is a player here, including when putting in a good round of jumping to land a decent handicap at Newbury last March. An unsuccessful mission to France followed that and he looked in need of the run when third behind Elegant Escape on his seasonal reappearance, so this is his first realistic chance of the season. With star conditional James Bowen booked to ride and claiming 3lb off his back, he looks well worth a shot at Betfair’s 7/1.
3:35 3m2f (3m1f170y) Edinburgh Gin Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) (4yo+)
Nicky Richards has a 25% strike rate in handicap hurdles here so his pair of Takingrisks and Western Rules, both winners last time out, need giving plenty of respect, as does Stayers’ Hurdle also-ran Donna’s Diamond, who has been put in as favourite despite top weight.
However, I think they’ve all got to go some to beat Donald McCain’s LASTBUTNOTLEAST, who looks a cracking bet at the 15/2 on offer at bet365. She’s been running over fences this season and hasn’t been seen out since an odds-on flop at Leicester in January, when she was probably still feeling the effects of a very hard race when winning at Haydock three weeks previously. The rest will have done her good then and while she is switching back to hurdles, she is 3-3 in this sphere, culminating in a defeat of the progressive Happy Diva in a Listed contest at Doncaster in March 2017. She’s now won five of her eight starts under Rules on ground no faster than soft, so the forecast ‘heavy’ is ideal, and I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if her in-form trainer (5-19 in the last fortnight) has had this race in mind for her for a good while.
All odds were correct at time of posting.