An otherwise successful day at Kelso Races was tinged with sadness yesterday when dual Borders National victor Neptune Equester collapsed and died.
The local favourite passed away on the course after finishing runner-up to the Paul Nicholls trained Unioniste in the Ivan Straker Memorial chase midway through the meeting.
Shades of Midnight delighted Hawick connections when romping home 26 lengths clear for a convincing win at Kelso’s first meeting of 2016 on Thursday.
Trained by Donald Whillans and ridden by son Callum, the progressive stayer cruised clear of runner-up Kind of Easy, trained by Donald’s brother, Alistair.
In the colours of the locally-based Potassium Partnership, who also bred him, the gelding was the impressive victor of the Kelso Annual Members’ handicap hurdle race.
There was a further Hawick victory in the P & G Allan Catering Open Hunters’ Chase, when 25-1 chance Durban Gold provided Bonchester Bridge-based Di Walton with a first success under Rules.
The successful pointer, purchased at Doncaster Sales, won in the hands of Mindrum jockey Nick Orpwood.
“I thought she would run well but I didn´t think she would win,” admitted Di.
“The weight made a big difference as she was getting more than a stone from some of them,” she added.
Fife trainer Nick Alexander saddled Road to Gold to win the opening Kelso Annual Members novice hurdle race.
The 3-1 chance, owned by Judy Douglas Miller, scored by five lengths for the trainer’s daughter, Lucy.
Rocking Blues cruised home for a wide margin success in the Border Hotel Kirk Yetholm handicap chase – his third victory at the track.
Under a capable ride by Lorcan Murtagh, the gelding romped home 20 lengths clear, for Alnwick trainer Rose Dobbin.
Lorcan – godson of the trainer’s husband and former Grand National winning jockey Tony Dobbin – is now just one win short of losing his 10lbs claim.
“He´s in the Eider so we´ll think about that,” said Tony.
Feature race of a valuable £87,000 card was the Timeform Morebattle hurdle, where Nicky Henderson’s Champion Hurdle prospect Top Notch showed his class cruising home for a comfortable 12-length victory.
The concluding Racing UK in HD Next Month bumper went to Richard Johnson on the John Quinn-trained Lady Beaufort.
1.20 – ROAD TO GOLD (L Alexander) 3-1; 2, Western Rules 5-4 fav; 3, Water Sprite 15-8. Seven ran. N Alexander, Kinneston.
1.55 – ROCKING BLUES (L Murtagh) 7-4 fav; 2, Carrigdhoun 9-4; 3, Gold Opera 5-1. Five ran. R Dobbin, Hazelrigg.
2.30 - TOP NOTCH (D Jacob) 4-11 fav; 2, One for Harry 4-1; 3, Chic Name 10-1. Four ran. N Henderson, Lambourn.
3.05 – UNIONISTE (N Scholfield) 10-11 FAV; 2, Neptune Equester 14-1; 3, Soll 6-4. Four ran. P Nicholls, Somerset.
3.40 – SHADES OF MIDNIGHT (C Whillans) 4-1 jt fav; 2, Kind of Easy 16-1; 3, Pilgrims Bay 4-1 jt fav. 10 ran. D Whillans, Hawick.
4.15 – DURBAN GOLD (N Orpwood) 25-1; 2, Wicklow Lad 5-1; 3, Mister Marker 4-1. Eight ran. Mrs D Walton, Bonchester Bridge.
4.50 – LADY BEAUFORT (R Johnson) 9-4; 2, Randy Pike 6-5 fav; 3, Brackenmoss Rory 8-1. Eight ran. J Quinn, N Yorks.