Fortune likely to smile on Lucky Nellerie as Ferdy appears ready for Kelso

THOSE go-ahead managers at Kelso racecourse are usually good at spotting any opportunity for publicity, but I wonder if they have missed out on a potential entry in the Guinness Book of Records, which always gets you a headline.

Today's racing at the Borders course sees the return of The Royal Caledonian Hunt to Kelso for the second time this season. The Hunt have been regular visitors to the course over the years, and one aspect of the links between these two venerable Scottish institutions caught my eye recently.

The Hunt Club was instituted in 1777 and it was only two years later that they sponsored their first race at Kelso. The links may be older as it was in 1751 that the Caledonian Hunt, an exclusive body of Scottish sporting landowners, gave a plate of 50 guineas to be run for at Kelso Races which were then held at Caverton Edge. Perhaps someone can enlighten me to the history here - did the 1751 sponsor become the Hunt Club?

But even if it was only in 1779 that a link was formally established, that, for my money, still makes the club one of the oldest sporting sponsors around, and the fact that they are still sponsoring races more than two centuries later is surely worthy of inclusion in some record book or other.

I am reliably informed that the Hunt Club received Royal Patronage in 1822 when King George IV visited Scotland and attended a ball in Edinburgh.

On behalf of this historic club, the Earl of Errol will make the presentations to the winning connections of today's race named after them, a 3m 4f handicap chase at 3.10pm which will take a bit of winning in the heavy ground.

It may be John Smith's day at Kelso, but it could be Murphy who triumphs in this race. Lucky Nellerie, trained by Ferdy Murphy, looks very good to me. He stays forever, likes heavy ground, and promising apprentice jockey PJ McDonald takes a welcome 5lbs off his back.

You don't have to be a supporter of hunting - and I am not - to appreciate the work of the new Hunt Staff Benefit Society. I thought it grossly unjust that there should be ban on hunting without proper compensation for the people who worked in that activity, so the society's work should be encouraged.

They are hosting a lunch to create awareness and raise funds for the society at Kelso today and I'm told that more than 200 will be attending and supporting the society. A very generous anonymous donation has also been given to allow the society to sponsor the Handicap Hurdle which bears their name.

They have been rewarded for their largesse with a decent turnout for what looks to be a very competitive event. I am not going to put my curse on Witch Wind by tipping him but the seven-year-old does have conditions in his favour. It's hard to see past Overserved, however, especially after his fine win under a superbly-judged ride by Timmy Murphy at Ayr on January 2. Murphy is replaced in the saddle by Graham Lee, so that's no great loss, and, even with top weight, he'll be hard to beat.

John Smith's beers are now the name sponsors on more than 100 races spread across 31 racecourses with combined prize money in excess of 3.5m, and Kelso gets its share with the John Smith's No Nonsense Novice Chase and the opening race at 1.05, the John Law John Smith's juvenile novices' hurdle.

The former looks booked for Ferdy Murphy's L'Antartique, while the latter features Murphy's French hurdle winner Kalmo Bay, who will be making his British debut - watch the market for any moves on him. As for L'Antartique, he has been successful in a bumper, over hurdles, and has won over fences at Bangor. Murphy feels this horse is good enough to merit a Royal & SunAlliance Chase entry and that's a pointer.

The good news is that the weather has cheered up in the Borders and, though the ground will be heavy, no inspection is planned.