Russell is now just three short of Len Lungo’s Scottish National Hunt seasonal record of 63 winners set in 2002-2003, but her 60th winner sets a new personal best for the Milnathort stable, and richly deserved it is too.
There’s little doubt that Russell will break Lungo’s record with five weeks of the National Hunt season to go, but even that accomplishment may not give her as much pleasure as Lie Forrit’s victory in the 3m 3f marathon under stable jockey Peter Buchanan.
Lie Forrit was the favoured horse of the stable’s late young jockey Campbell Gillies, and is now owned by his family, many of whom were in attendance, including his mother Lesley. Struggling to hold back her emotions, Russell said: “They have been through so much, it is just so good for them to win here at Kelso.”
Neptune Equester, ridden by Grand National-winning jockey Ryan Mania, and owned by Jim Beaumont, owner of Mania’s Aintree hero Aurora’s Encore, was a fast finishing second – one for the future.
It was a good day for trainers from north of the Border as Nick Alexander of Kinneston saddled Jet Master to win the following race, the Ashleybank Investments Reg & Betty Tweedie Handicap Chase.
Superbly ridden by Alexander’s sister Lucy, Jet Master was brought into the race only in the final quarter mile as Un Guet Apens forged ahead under Brian Hughes. The two 7-2 co-favourites battled it out to the line, with Jet Master seeming to idle in front until his jockey galvanised him for a final winning effort.
Scottish jockey Wilson Renwick was taken to hospital after a heavy fall but his injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.
The opening race, the Abbey Tool and Gauge Handicap hurdle, looked booked for Captain Brown under Brian Hughes who was five lengths up at the last before suffering a crashing fall.
That gave Keeneland and Overpriced, 12-1 and 33-1 respectively, the chance to fight out the finish and it was the Donald McCain-trained Keeneland who prevailed by a head under Adrian Lane.
The screens went up around Captain Brown but he got back to his feet after ten minutes, to the delight of the crowd watching in the stands.
Down at Lingfield, the Winter Derby saw 10-1 shot Robin Hoods Bay go one better than his second place last year, the Ed Vaughan-trained six-year-old being brought with a well-timed run by Luke Morris to go past long-time leader Anaconda and forge ahead to clinch the £57,000 first prize from the Godolphin entry Windhoek.