Kelso Racecourse: Racing in the land of Sir Walter Scott

In last month’s OCP magazine I looked at the Market Rasen. This month I’m heading North to Scotland and Kelso racecourse.

As before in this series of articles on British racecourses, I will look briefly at the track’s location, history, configuration and will also highlight some significant track stats.

History and Location

Kelso Racecourse is one of five Scottish racecourses. It’s located just inside the Scottish border and is situated about two miles outside of the town of the same name. This is very much a country track and offers racegoers a beautiful backdrop to the racing action.

Horse racing has taken place in the area since 1734 but it wasn’t until 1822 that the racing was held at the site of the present course.

Initially a flat only racecourse, from the late 19th Century it became a course for National Hunt racing only.

In 1913 the racecourse became involved in the struggle for women’s suffrage, when Edith Hudson and three other suffragettes were charged with attempting to set fire to the Kelso racecourse stand.

For those coming by car Kelso is easily accessible just off the A698, for those coming from Berwick and by the A68 and A7 from Edinburgh and from Newcastle and Carlisle in the south.

Given its remote location, not surprisingly it isn’t easily accessible by public transport.

There is regular rail service from Edinburgh to Tweedbank and the journey takes about an hour. For those coming by train Kelso racecourse offers a Track2Track return bus transfer from Tweedbank railway station to the course, at the time of writing it is £6pp. 

If you do take this route you have book the bus journey in advance with the racecourse.

If you are coming from England the nearest railway station is Berwick-on-Tweed which is 22 miles from the racecourse.

Track Configuration

Racing takes place at Kelso throughout the winter. There are two left-handed courses both have tight bends.

Both tracks can be described as essentially sharp in nature.

The Hurdle Course

The Chase Course

The emphasis used to be on stamina at Kelso as it could be a punishing test at the end of race with the final three furlongs being uphill. However, in late 2012, changes were made to the track with the final obstacle on both the chase and hurdle courses being moved closer to the winning post.

Despite the moving of the final obstacles it’s still a tough run in.

Dramatic finishes are a feature of racing at Kelso, as the leaders at the last can have the race snatched from their grasp as they approach the winning line.

The fences are easy to medium, but according to Timeform “The chase course has one of the highest casualty rates in the country”.

The course has good natural drainage which means that going is rarely heavy at Kelso.

The course stages the Scottish Borders National Handicap Chase, over a marathon 4m ½ f in December, but the courses main meeting is the pre-Cheltenham fixture in February which features the Premier Kelso Hurdle, a Grade 2 race over 2m 2f and the Premier Chase, a Listed race over 2m 7f.

Kelso Stats

As ever let’s begin by looking at some general stats including favourite stats at the course since 2015.

The stats below are from Jan 1st, 2015 to the time of writing (10/08/19) and cover all meetings at the course.

Once again, I am using the ever useful for the stats.

Let’s begin by looking at some general meeting stats from the last five years, beginning with the fate of the favourites, both clear and joint.

The results below contain 409 winners from 3239 runners 986 placed.


Clear, joint & co-favourites have produced the following set of results:

157 winners from 441 runners 36% -21.68 A/E 0.94 265 placed 60%

Breaking those results down into handicap & non-handicap races gives us:

Non-handicap – 72 winners from 160 runners 45% -17.21 A/E 0.89 115 placed 72%

Handicap – 85 winners from 281 runners 30% -4.47 A/E 0.99 150 placed 53%

Digging a bit deeper let’s focus on favourites that won their last race and those favourites who had finished outside the first three on their last start.

  • Favourites that won their last race have produced – 50 winners from 131 runners 38% +4.34 A/E 0.95 86 placed 66%.
  • Favourites that had finished outside the top four on their last start produced – 30 winners from 113 runners 27% -29 A/E 0.73 64 placed 57%.

Trainers and Favourites:

 If you’re a favourite backer, here are the best performing trainers when the money is down:

Summary: Nicky Richards is the trainer with the most winning favourites at Kelso, followed by Lucinda Russell. Looking at the A/E stat two trainers worth noting are Harriet Graham & Tom George.

Jockeys and Favourites:

Which jockeys have done the business when the money is down for favourite backers?

Summary: The top jockey numerically is Brian Hughes who’s well clear of his nearest rival but he’s performing below market expectations looking at his A/E stat.  Of more interest from a value perspective are the likes of Sean Quinlan and Sam Twiston-Davies.

General Stats:

Now a few general course stats.

Starting with market position.

Market Position:

  • The top three in the betting – 317 winners from 1254 runners 25% -45.45 A/E 0.95 629 placed 50%.
  • Odds SP: 18/1 & above – 12 winners from 882 runners 1% -476 A/E 0.51 82 placed 9%.

Summary: Big priced winners those 18/1 and above do occasionally pop up at Kelso but they are few and far between and looking at the A/E stat it’s not a pond you really want to be fishing in as far as winners are concerned.

Last Time Out Placing:

Those horses that finished in the first three in their last race provided 220 winners from 1148 runners 19% -199.69 A/E 0.92 446 placed 41%

Last Time Out Winners:

  • Last time out winners provided 95 winners from 410 runners 23% -37.12 A/E 0.93 201 placed 49%.

Previous Course Winners:

  • Previous course winners provided 95 winners from 618 runners 15% -14.16 A/E 0.94 220 placed 36%.

Summary: As a comparison, the average for last time out winners in all UK NH races in the period under research is 21% with an A/E 0.91. Whilst previous course winners average, in a NH races in the period have won 15% of races with an A/E 0.89. So, previous course winners are performing slightly above the national average in terms of winners and above market expectations.

If you had backed all previous course winners at Kelso, you would have lost just £14.16 to a £1 level stake.

79 of those course winners were sent off at 18/1 or bigger with three winning for a 10 point profit (12 more were placed) these horses are performing 5% better than the betting market expected.


Trainer Stats and Angles

Here are a few interesting trainer track stats, which will hopefully enable you to identify some winners at Kelso, throughout the rest of the 2019-20 National Hunt season.

  1. Trainers & Handicap Hurdle Runners Top-Three In The Betting

Lucinda Russell – 8 winners from 26 runners 31% +11.79 A/E 1.28 13 placed 50%

Nicky Richards – 6 winners from 15 runners 40% +12.91 A/E 1.8 9 placed 60%

  1. Trainers & Handicap Chase Runners Top-Three In The Betting

Lucinda Russell – 12 winners from 39 runners 31% +11.47 A/E 1.23 18 placed 46%

Sandy Forster – 4 winners from 7 runners 57% +12.9 A/E 3.03 5 placed 71%

  1. Trainers & Race Class – (Handicaps)

Keith Dalgleish (Class 4) – 4 winners from 13 runners 31% +0.16 A/E 1.25 5 placed 38%

Nicky Richards (Class 3) – 7 winners from 23 runners 30% +11.98 A/E 1.26 10 placed 43%

Nicky Richards (Class 4) – 5 winners from 17 runners 29% +18.16 A/E 1.64 9 placed 53%

Lucinda Russell (Class 3) – 8 winners from 33 runners 24% +13.71 A/E 1.42 16 placed 48%

Harriet Graham (Class 4) – 4 winners from 17 runners 24% +4.83 A/E 1.66 10 placed 59%

George Bewley (Class 4) – 5 winners from 20 runners 20% +18.5 A/E 1.65 11 placed 44%

Trainers & Race Distance (All races)

Lucinda Russell (2m 1f to 2m 1 ½ f) – 10 winners from 34 runners 29% +13.34 A/E 1.65 16 placed 47%

Lucinda Russell (3m 2f to 3m 2 ½ f) – 6 winners from 21 runners 29% +14.96 A/E 1.66 12 placed 57%

  1. Trainers & NHF Races – Racecourse Debutants

Iain Jardine – 3 winners from 10 runners 30% +4.75 A/E 1.97 4 placed 40%

On the negative side Nick Alexander & Harriet Graham are 0 winners from 21 runners 1 placed with bumper debutants.

Summary: Plenty of interesting trainer stats to digest there, albeit the sample sizes are small.

The most interesting for me would be the Nicky Richard’s stats in Class 3 & 4 handicaps.

Kelso Trainer Micro Angle:

Finally, here is a trainer micro angle for you:

Trainer: Nicky Richards

Race Type: Handicaps

Race Class: 3 and 4 only

Race Distance: 2m 5f to 3m 2 ½ f

11 winners from 29 runners 38% +31.14 A/E 1.63 15 placed 52%

System 28: Back Nicky Richards Kelso runners in Class 3 & 4 handicaps racing between 2m 5f & 3m 2 ½ f.

Hopefully you enjoyed this brief look at Kelso racecourse and some of the track’s key stats.

The next stop in this tour of British racecourses makes the short trip across the border to Carlisle.

Until next time


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Wendy Carter

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