Hawick jockey Blair Campbell landed the biggest success of his race-riding career to date when partnering Big River to an impressive win in the £22,000 Edinburgh Gin handicap hurdle race before a bumper crowd at a sun-bathed Kelso races on Saturday.
The progressive seven-year-old is trained at Milnathort by Lucinda Russell for Deborah Thomson, formerly of Kelso, who runs him under “Two Black Labs”.
Recording his second success from three runs at the track, the gelding stayed on strongly, cruising home 10 lengths clear of favourite Seeyouatmidnight.
“We had a light weight and tried to make the most of it,” said the winning jockey.
“He loves the soft ground and I am sure there is plenty more to come.”
The race was tinged with sadness when multiple Grade 1 star Reve de Sivola collapsed and died after being pulled up before the last.
Reve de Sivola’s jockey relinquished his remaining rides, with Henry Brooke deputising to win the Ashleybank Investments Reg and Betty Tweedie handicap chase aboard Forest Des Aigles – the second winner of the afternoon for Russell.
The first fence in the home straight was omitted on both circuits due to the low sun.
Langholm trainer James Ewart accounted for a drama-packed Mike Hope of Wooler Ltd novice handicap chase, when Ascot De Bruyere was the only one of five starters to finish.
His other four challengers all unseated their jockeys.
“He’s been a bit unlucky before as he’s run some very respectable races without getting his head in front,” said the Langholm handler.
Another to favour the Borders track is Runswick Royal, who posted his third win from four runs with a seven-length victory in the opening Belhaven Best handicap hurdle race.
Trained in Northumberland by Ann Hamilton for her husband Ian, the gelding appeared to appreciate the drop back in trip.
“He has a kissing spine and that’s why we brought him back to hurdles, though we might try him again over fences next season,” said the winning owner.
“Aintree will be too soon for him and instead he’ll probably go for a handicap hurdle at Ayr on Scottish National day. Yala Enki bounced back to form to land a competitive feature Liz Adam Memorial handicap chase for Herefordshire trainer Venetia Williams.
He got the better of favourite Seldom Inn, from Sandy Thomson’s Greenlaw stable, by seven lengths.
Racecourse director Geoff Adam, who sponsored the race, was also in the winner’s enclosure when Rhymers Stone proved a popular winner of the Kelso Early Bird handicap hurdle race.
Trained at Camptown by Harriet Graham, and ridden by Jedburgh jockey Callum Bewley, the winner received a rousing reception after his gutsy eight-length success.
Another good afternoon’s racing concluded with the Ferguson Planning & Development open hunter chase, where only three went to post after the Lucinda Russell-trained Green Flag was withdrawn at the start on veterinary advice.
Ex- jockey Gary Rutherford opened his account as a trainer when the Jedburgh handler saddled Miss Biscotti to take the spoils.
The 14-1 chance turned over hot favourite Carlton Ryan.
2.05 – RUNSWICK ROYAL (R Day) 2-1 jt fav; 2, Sleepy Haven 5-1; 3, Teo Vivo 2-1 jt fav. Five ran. A Hamilton, Northumberland.
2.40 – BIG RIVER (B Campbell) 100-30; 2, Seeyouatmidnight 3-1 fav; 3, Eminent Poet 10-1. Eight ran. L Russell, Milnathort.
3.15 – YALA ENKI (L Treadwell) 9-4; 2, Seldom Inn 2-1 fav; 3, Silver Tassie 11-1. Seven ran. V Williams, Herefordshire.
3.50 – ASCOT DE BRUYERE (B Harding) 11-4. Five ran, only one finished. J Ewart, Langholm.
4.25 – FOREST DES AIGLES (H Brooke) 11-8 fav; 2, Nine Altars 7-2; 3, Casual Cavalier 100-30. Five ran. L Russell.
5.00 – RHYMERS STONE (C Bewley)7-4 jt fav; 2, Un Guet Apens 4-1; 3, Rivabodiva 6-1. Eight ran. H Graham, Camptown.
5.35 – MISS BISCOTTI (Miss E Todd) 14-1; 2, Carlton Ryan 2-5 fav; 3, Mister Marker 9-1. Three ran. G Rutherford, Jedburgh.