The sky in the Scottish Borders is bigger than in other places. Much bigger than in the south of England, for example, where tree shrouded lanes obscure the view; wider than in the Lake District where steep craggy hills hem the horizon, and higher than in the Highlands where tall mountains pierce the blue ceiling.
It’s one of the (many) reasons why I had to return to the Borders: the broad, tall, skies stretching from Hawick to Berwick and from Kelso up to the heavens. So much space, so much fresh air, so much room for rainbows and clouds of every description.
And we’ve seen many clouds here. There was Many Clouds, the horse (of course), who so delighted Kelso racegoers by winning the Premier Steeplechase in 2016, the year after he’d won the Grand National. And then there was Vintage Clouds, who runs in the same colours, those of the late Trevor Hemmings, who had his pre-Cheltenham prep race at Kelso before winning at the Festival last season.
The Sue Smith trained grey gelding was one of two Festival winners that honed their fitness with a final run at Kelso, the other being The Shunter who won a £100,000 bonus for doing so. Their exertions made Kelso the most successful racecourse in Britain at which to prepare horses for Cheltenham.
Vintage Clouds will have his first run of the new season back at Kelso this weekend, when he tackles Big River (who has won six of his eight starts here – having also finished second once and been brought down on the other occasion) and four other smart chasers in the £40,000 Edinburgh Gin Handicap Steeplechase. Despite being the smallest field of the day, it’s an intriguing contest that’ll be as tricky to pin down as a wispy jet-trail or a spiralling cumulonimbus.
Saturday’s weather is due to be cloudy but dry – a mix of those stringy white clouds that drift over the Cheviots and the darker broodier ones that may threaten rain mid-morning, but shouldn’t actually drop any over racegoers at Kelso (although they might get you if you stay in Duns or Eyemouth). Either way, I’m hoping the clouds will obscure the low sun and that the jockeys will consent to jumping all of the obstacles in the home straight. By early evening we’ll be expecting the sky to display hues of pink and purple as a local folk band, Across The Cobbles, plays racegoers out to the car park.
Rather than speculating on the outcome of the feature race, this week’s selection is Getaman in the Visit RacingTV.com Novices Handicap Chase. Owned by a division of the Landale family, who will be celebrating Richard and Jenny’s special anniversary by sponsoring a race on the same card, and trained by Jenny’s nephew (DJ Jeffreys), I can see Getaman chasing a family dream to the end of the rainbow – where, as everyone knows, we will discover a pot of pure Borders’ gold.