No fewer than six Borders trainers have horses qualified for finals day of the inaugural £125,000 Northern Lights race series at Carlisle this coming Sunday.
A six-figure prize pot is up for grabs with plenty of local interest in the series which is designed to promote jump racing in the north and provide greater opportunities for owners and trainers.
Donald Whillans (Hawick) has four qualifiers with brother Alister (Hawick), Sandy Thomson (Kelso) with three potential runners. Stuart Coltherd (Selkirk) has two while James Ewart (Langholm) and Raymond Shiels (Jedburgh) have one apiece. Each of the five finals at Carlisle – aimed at mid-tier jump horses – carries prize money of £25,000 and follows 75 qualifying races held exclusively at northern racecourses.
Ahead of entries being announced, Kinross-based Grand National winner Lucinda Russell leads the list of 11 Scottish trainers, with eight horses qualified and available to enter.
Asked about the Northern Lights Series, Russell said: “We always had our eye on it and I think it’s fantastic for mid-range horses. I think what’s great with the Northern Lights is it gives those horses a chance.”
Hot on the heels of Russell is Fife’s Nick Alexander who has six qualifiers. He described the Northern Lights as a “fantastic” initiative when it was launched earlier this year.
Other Scottish trainers involved are Iain Jardine (Dumfries), Mike Smith (East Ayrshire) and Jim Goldie (East Renfrewshire).
The five finals day races are a 3m handicap chase, 2½m handicap chase, 2m handicap hurdle, 3m handicap hurdle and 2½m mares handicap hurdle. To qualify horses were required to have started in at least two series qualifiers and be placed in the first eight at least once.
Tickets for the Northern Lights Series Final – which will include plenty of fun activities alongside the track for all the family – are £14 in advance (£17 on the day).
It is free admission for all-under-18s when accompanied by a full-paying adult. Gates open at 10.20am. First race is 12.20pm. Last race is 3.30pm.