The first Scottish action of the season saw some top class action on near perfect jumping ground at Friars Haugh, Kelso on Sunday where 59 runners, including 6 long distance travellers from Denbigh, Oakham and Shifnal, faced the starter on a seven race card at the Jedforest fixture.
Nick Orpwood extended his lead in the Northern Area Men's Jockeys Championship with a fourth winner of the campaign on Eco Warrior in the Jedforest Storage Express & Border Berries Conditions Race. Sent on three out, the nine-year-old met the last two fences on a perfect stride and kept on well to beat Wayupinthesky by two lengths, with Pyjama Game a further half length away in third. Orpwood, who also trains the gelding, said: "He always seems to run well fresh and that was his third course win. He'll probably return here for the Duke of Buccleuch's meeting on March 17."
There was a popular local success for Bonchester Bridge-based owner/trainer/rider, Lucy Brown on her evergreen 13 year old gelding, Sorcier in the Adam Purves Mitsubishi and Brown & Turner Intermediate Race. Her mount led throughout the final mile and went further clear from two out to secure a comfortable three lengths verdict over Shropshire raider, Myoldman, with the favourite, Worcester Pearmain only losing second spot near the line. Lucy is currently working for Kirsty & Ronan Brown and plans to go to university in September. After scoring on his debut at Corbridge in March 2011 when trained by Philippa Shirley-Beavan, Sorcier has proved to be an ideal schoolmaster for Lucy in the last couple of seasons and provided her with a memorable first winner at Hexham last April.
Amie Waugh is eight points ahead of Lucy Brown in the youngsRPS Northern Area Ladies Championship after her third winner of the season on Nicki's Nipper in the Musselburgh Racecourse & Royal Dick Vet Ladies Open Race. Always in the leading trio, the eleven-year-old mare quickened clear from two out to beat Rossini's Dancer (Mhairi Ogilvie) by four lengths, with the consistent Abbeyview a further length away in third. This was Amie's 50th career winner, comprising 32 between the flags and 18 under Rules. She also trains Nicki's Nipper for her father, Simon and all of the mare's victories have been on good or good to soft ground. Amie said: "I didn't know if she would act on this undulating track but she coped well and will mix Pointing with hunters' chases this season. A return trip to Balcormo Mains is likely on Easter Saturday for the valuable Fife Mixed Open which she won last year."
There was plenty of quality in the 13 runner Harbro Country Store Men's Open Race and it resulted in a narrow success for ex-chaser, Purcell's Bridge on his first start for 420 days. Patiently ridden by Bill Shanahan, the twelve-year-old picked off his rivals one by one on the final circuit before hitting the front with Killer Crow (Kit Alexander) three out. He was more fluent than Kit's mount at the last and had a length in hand at the line with long time leader, Boa Island a similar distance away in third. The gelding is owned and trained by Rose Dobbin, who said: "He has always been a class horse with plenty of winning form under Rules on soft ground. I roughed him off last season after he sustained a tendon injury." Shanahan, 28, who joined Dobbin's South Hazelrigg yard last summer, added: "I got him switched off and probably hit the front too soon. I've ridden 9 Pointing winners in Ireland as well as 3 under Rules in Italy and that was my first ride between the flags in this country."
After unseating on his first two outings earlier this season, Beggars Bush re-discovered the winning habit in the James Swinton & Co and A.S.Crawford Groundworks Restricted Race. Given a positive front-running ride by Immy Robinson, the eight-year-old gradually forged clear of Templepoint (Rory Bevin) from three out but had to be stoked up again after idling on the long run between the last two fences and at one point looked as if he was going to stop. He met the last well and still had four lengths to spare at the line. Winning Shropshire trainer, Caroline Robinson, who was making her first visit to Friars Haugh, said: "It took about five and a half hours to get here and makes a very early start worthwhile. We fitted Beggars Bush with a hood for the first time here and he clearly enjoyed dictating the pace in a small field."
Hardrock Davis justified favouritism in the two and a half mile Bisset's Baguettes & Charlotte Agnew Eventing Open Maiden Race. Always prominent under a confident ride from John Dawson, the eight-year-old never looked being pegged back from four out and cruised home with four lengths in hand over Denbigh raider, African Belle. The winner is trained by Karen Lynn and owned by husband, Kenny, who said: "He handles soft ground and will be suited even better by a longer trip. He deserves more credit for that run as he pulled a hind shoe off in the horsebox on the way to Friars Haugh. He is the third one I've bought out of Tom George's yard and the other two, Pas De Baratin and Viacometti were also winners for us. The Buccleuch Cup Maiden Hunters' Chase at Kelso on April 8 is the target if he follows up in a Restricted contest here in March."
Costly Dream provided John Marshall with his first winner as a trainer in the Billy Stenhouse Memorial & Toffs On Tour Open Maiden Race. This seven-year-old Yeats gelding made virtually every yard of the running under Ross Wilson and, apart from a couple of slow jumps at the first two fences, didn't make another mistake as he maintained a strong gallop to beat debutant, Just Don't Know (Rory Bevin) by two lengths.
Marshall said: "I took a chance when I bought him for only £1500 at Doncaster Sales last May but he has improved on all three runs for me and the Buccleuch Cup is his main target."