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The Weekly Blog

Making the Grade

A bus load of rowdy racegoers surrounded the Cheltenham Parade Ring to welcome Jeremy Scott’s Golden Ace into the Winners Enclosure following her victory in the Ryanair Mares Novices Hurdle last Thursday – and we’re hopeful that we might welcome the same crowd to Kelso in a fortnight’s time.

According to The Sporting Life website, Scott speculated “She’s all good, she came out of the race really well. We will see what [handicap] mark we’ve been given, we’ve got the Herring Queen series at Kelso as an option, otherwise I’d imagine it’ll be Aintree.”

The Herring Queen Series Final for novice hurdling mares is a relatively new race at Kelso, initiated three years ago following a failed attempt to encourage the European Breeders Fund to move sponsorship for their own Grade 2 event for mares further North. We were disappointed when our offer to boost the prize money for the EBF race was declined but, instead of getting downhearted about it, we decided to set up our own race series which, at £100k, now boasts almost double the prize fund of Newbury’s race – albeit without the Pattern Race status… yet.

Graded races form part of the Pattern for jump racing and, in the case of mares, winning form in Pattern Races can significantly enhance breeding value or the value of a mare’s progeny. So, while the current trend in Britain is to shrink the number of Pattern Races in order to maintain their prestige, we have an ambition to stage more such races in the North. Not only do they attract the best horses as a spectacle for northern racegoers to enjoy, they present additional reasons (if any  more were needed) for the top owners to keep horses in the North.

To gain Pattern status, a race has to attract runners of sufficient quality over a sustained period of time – a minimum of three years. Which is why we’ve been keeping an excited eye on the list of more than a hundred horses which have qualified to run in the Herring Queen Final, staged at Kelso on Saturday 6th April.

In addition to Golden Ace, other prominent qualifiers include: Dysart Enos, a well fancied absentee from the Cheltenham Festival last week, and Sweet Fantasy, who I was fortunate enough to witness winning in easy fashion at Catterick recently, from Lily Du Berlais (herself a qualifier, who has already won and been placed at the Dublin Racing Festival). A rare Hereford runner for Irish based trainer Henry De Bromhead, Emotivo finished second to a subsequent winner, Spiced Rum, in a Herring Queen qualifier last month – it was a long way to travel unless the intention was to qualify for Kelso.

The final being a handicap, the weight allocated to all runners will be key to their chances – and we can’t wait to see if there are any jokers in the pack when entries are published on 1st April.

In the meantime, regular readers won’t be surprised to learn that Saturday’s selection, for the EBF National Hunt Mares Novices Hurdle Final at Newbury, is the Scottish trained El Elefante.