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Kelso Review

Hi all,

Inside today’s main piece review of a cracking days racing at Kelso on Saturday. Plus, in a longer than normal Monday column, I take an in-depth look at a couple of races at Wolverhampton and Wetherby

Kelso Morebattle Day Review

I like Kelso’s Morebattle Hurdle Day and it’s a meeting I must attend sometime. Bet365’s sponsorship has also seen a substantial increase in prize money and if you put the money up, the horses run. The meeting now offers good sized fields and competitive racing, and it didn’t let us down this year. 

The Morebattle Hurdle had become a four or five runner conditions hurdle dominated by a Nicky Henderson odds-on shot. Since it changed to handicap in 2021 the race has been revitalised and sixteen went to post for this year’s race.

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The ITV cameras were in attendance at Kelso and terrestrial viewers were treated to some excellent sport beginning in the first race.

The going at Kelso was officially described as good to soft and looking at the times the Clerk of the Course got it spot on.

Battling Bill

A ding dong’ finish to the first race at Kelso. The front running Bill Baxter just prevailing from Half Shot in a photo finish. I like Bill Baxter’s attitude he’s tough and finds plenty for pressure as he showed again on Saturday.   

Jockey Sean Bowen even lost an iron after the last but that didn’t stop him from holding on. Regular readers of the column will know I’m a big fan of Sean Bowen and I’m surprised he hasn’t been snapped up for a top job. If I was J P McManus, I would be on the phone to him to offer him my retainer.

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I don’t think the winner would want ground quicker than he faced on Saturday but with juice in the ground he’s useful handicap chaser. Trainer Warren Greatrex was talking after the race about going for the Topham Chase at Aintree. His quick and fluent jumping would give the 7-year-old every chance in that race.

Two out I thought runner-up Half Shot was travelling like the most likely winner. However, the winner won’t it more in the closing stages.

Early bird favourite Sholokjack was weak in the pre-race betting and his jumping started to fall apart at halfway.  He was beaten horse coming to two out. He remains in a competitive mark but his jumping on Saturday was a worry.

The £100,000 Cheltenham bonus was son offer to the winner of Saturday’s Morebattle Hurdle. Unlike 12 months ago when four hurdles were omitted. We didn’t have to worry about low sun on Saturday.

Benson Pounces For Morebattle Success

The Sandy Thomson trained Benson swooped late to collar top- weight Colonel Mustard on the run in. It had had looked unlikely success two out with the winner still well behind.

They had gone a good gallop from the off which suited the winner who stays 2m 4f. Connections wil have that Cheltenham bonus on their mind. Benson has entries in both the Coral Cup and Martin Pipe and the former looks his most likely target.

Colonel Mustard travelled powerfully through the race. Taking it up from long-time leader Wajaaha at the last. I thought he was going to gain a well-deserved big handicap hurdle success, but he couldn’t hold the winners late swoop. He’s bound for the County Hurdle, but you wonder if this was an opportunity lost.

L'Eau Du Sud who I had fancied early in the week put in an improved performance to finish third. Kelso might be a speed favouring track but the run in is uphill all the way to the line. A flat track will probably suit him better as he didn’t quite seem to get home.

Wajaaha ran well for a long way to belie his 33/1 odds. He remains in form and is another who would have been suited by a flatter 2m.

There was a big market move for Teddy Boy, returned 100/30 favourite, but he never got into prominent position and was a disappointing sixth.

Mctigue went in the other direction in the betting and was a beaten horse three out. There’s not much to him and he’s one to treat with caution for now.  

Even more disappointing was Deere Mark. Progressive coming into the race he faded quickly from three out and ran as if something was amiss.

Lion’s Premier Victory

The Grade 2 Premier Novices’ Hurdle provided a form boost to Paul Nicholls Supreme hopeful Tahmuras.

Nemean Lion & Colonel Harry third and fourth to the Nicholls horse in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle finished first and second here. 

Saturday’s nap Nemean Lion made a bit of a hash of the last but that didn’t stop the Kerry Lee trained 6-year-old to head long-time leader Colonel Harry on the run-in.  The winner who is progressive is well suited to ease in the ground and would be interesting if heading to Aintree.

Irish challenger Feronily was thrown in the deep end for his hurdle debut. He was going as well as the winner three out but just lacked the experience of the three that finished in front of him.  The are races to be won with him probably over further.

One For Skelton

Not the best of days for Dan Skelton at Kelso but he did grab a winner courtesy of Santos Blue. The 6-year-old defied a 12lb rise in the weights and complete the hat trick in the 2m 5f Class 2 handicap hurdle. The win didn’t look certain two out, but he stormed clear at the last and the further they went the better he looked.

Runner-up Donny Boy back over hurdles was back to form after a couple of abortive attempts over fences.  He’s had wind surgery and it looks the breathing operation has had the desired effect. He can pop up again in the North before the season is out.

Santos Blue is a progressive hurdler, but the handicapper will have another say after this. And in truth this probably wasn’t the strongest of races for the class.

Empire Backers Can Thank Ryan

Sandy Thomson & Ryan Mania who had combined earlier to win the feature race. Landed what had seemed an unlikely double with Empire Steel in the Listed Premier Chase.

As expected, Wishing And Hoping took the field alongwith the 10/11 favourite Le Milos tracking.  The front pair gradually pulled clear of Empire Steel and The Shunter. Taking it up two out the race was Le Milos’s to lose. However, he idled/tired badly on the run-in and was overhauled by Empire Steel close to home. 

When Le Milos had kicked clear two out Empire Steel looked booked for second at best. However, he loves Kelso (form figures 1121) and he stayed on dourly to win. His backers and there seemed to be plenty cheering him home can thank jockey Ryan Mania for collecting. He never gave up on the horse and that persistence paid off.

Empire Steel will hopefully bypass a Cheltenham engagement in the Ultima and head to Ayr for the Scottish Grand National.

Le Milos was having his first start since winning the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury in November so might just have needed the run. He’s on course for a tilt and the Grand National. I thought his jumping was solid here but I wonder if his stamina will hold out in the Aintree marathon.

The Shunter was also having his first start since November. He was never put into the race but plugged on for third. The Grand National is also his target and I fancy he will finish in front of Le Milos there.

Kelso Verdict:

Of Saturday’s big performances all credit to Sandy Thomson & Ryan Mania for a big race Kelso double with Benson & Empire Steel.  Benson seems likely to head to the Coral Cup at Cheltenham. The race should suit him, but he wouldn’t be for me there.

Le Milos had the race in the bag before being collared by Empire Steel close home. I liked Le Milos’s jumping but I didn’t like the way he idled and hung right in the final stages. Apart from his finish it was a perfect respectable trial for the Grand National. If you think he’ll stay, the 25/1 available for the Aintree showpiece will appeal.

My Kelso performance of the day came from Bill Baxter. He’s a tough as nails handicap chaser. He will get a bit of weight rise for Saturday’s win. However, he will deserve to take his chance in a better race next time. Most likely that race will be the Topham at Aintree and that jumping test should suit. Although I would like to see step up to 3m.

Monday racing

There’s jump’s action from Southwell, Wetherby and Leopardstown this afternoon and Wolverhampton this evening.

For a Monday the racing isn’t too shabby. I have passed over the Southwell and Leopardstown cards.  Which leaves Wetherby and Wolverhampton. Weather permitting I’m going to Wetherby this afternoon. However, the most valuable of the day the – Scu Selects Expert Tips By BetUK Handicap (7:00) – is at Wolverhampton and it’s that race that comes under the microscope.


7:00 – Just the six for the days feature race but you can make a case for five of them

Evania looked suit by the step up to 1m 4f when winning on handicap debut at Southwell last month. The mare is up 5lb but that was only her fourth career start and should be capable of better.

Nolton Cross is 7lb higher than when winning over C&D last month and is up a couple of notches in class but should go well.

Base Note needs to bounce back from a poor run at Lingfield but his form figures over C&D are 112 so he can’t be discounted.

Contact progressed into a very useful middle distance handicapper last season. First start since July but he won first time up in 2021 and was a ¾ runner-up on seasonal return last year. He has to be respected on his all-weather debut.

Prydwen looked progressive handicapper when winning at Haydock in September. He didn’t handle heavy ground in the November handicap and was down the field on his return from a 4 month absence at Lingfield 16-days ago. Needs to bounce back but he’s won around here over shorter and Billy Loughnane takes off a handy 5lb.


Evania is a solid enough favourite and should be handily placed in race where there doesn’t look to be much pace. Contact is interesting on all-weather debut, but the lack of pace would be a concern. The same comment applies to Prydwen but he’s a much bigger price.

A couple of competitive handicap chases are the highlights of a six race card at Wetherby. The first of them is Wetherby Long Distance Handicap Chase (3:15).


3:15 – Just the six are due to meet the starter for the longest race run at Wetherby. And you can make cases for all of them.

Innisfree Lad was back to winning ways at Hereford last time and can race off the same mark here. He’s a thorough stayer and must be respected if the same form as 8-days ago.  

Your Own Story posted a career best over fences when a 7 length 2nd of 7 to the improving Stumptown at Sandown last month. He shapes like a marathon trip like this will suit and he’s the one I like of those at the front end of the betting.

Geryville proved his stamina for 3m 3f when a 1 ¼ length 2nd of 15 to Bangers And Cash in the Lincolnshire National two starts back. He’s since gone onto finish runner-up back at Market Rasen (3m) last month. If he stays 3m 7f he should be thereabouts.

Gwencily Berbas might be a 12-year-old bit he showed there’s still fire in his belly when winning the Devon National 10-days ago. A stamina test suits but he might have had a hard race last time.

Don Herbager stays an extended 3m 5f as he showed when winning at Bangor last February. He’s been out of sorts on three starts this season and was never travelling when pulling up at Bangor last month (found to have had irregular heartbeat). Softer ground would be preferable though.

Silver In Disguise won an extended 3m 6 ½ f handicap chase at Chepstow (good) last March. He posted a seasonal best when runner-up back at that venue (3m 2f) last month. Shaping that day like a return to a marathon trip like this was needed.

Monday selection:

The booking of Billy Loughnane for Prydwen could tempt me in but in the end I have opted for one at Wetherby for today’s selection


3:15 – Silver In Disguise – 17/2 @ Coral.

Good luck with your Monday bets.


2 thoughts on “Kelso Review”

  1. Hi John, I know you said you were away on the Friday, but your daily posts have been sporadic.
    Are you still doing daily post’s

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