Kelso Racecourse Guide

Described often as ‘Britain’s friendliest racecourse’, Kelso sits as the southernmost racecourse in Scotland, nestled in the borders some 40 miles southeast of Edinburgh in Roxburghshire. The track hosts jumps racing between September and May with a number of high profile races for a track of its’ size and stature.

Fixtures at the track are usually well attended and the track draws in racegoers from some distance away as well as locals despite the track not being particularly easy to reach other than by car.
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Kelso Major Meetings

Kelso plays host to some notable races in the National Hunt calendar, most notably the Borders National in December, the Morebattle Hurdle in February and the Kelso Premier Hurdle and Premier Chase in March . Both of the feature hurdles contests are Cheltenham Festival trials. 

The Edinburgh Gin Chase day is another feature meeting at the track, a quality handicap race over Kelso’s stiff chase course which takes place early in the jumps season.

Kelso Track Characteristics

Kelso’s racecourse is generally flat and left-handed although there is a stiff uphill climb to the finishing post. The hurdles course runs inside the chase course and is much sharper in nature although races over hurdles do end up under the stands’ side rail whereas the chase course finishes are on the far rail.

The fences at Kelso are quite stiff and the track has one of the highest faller-rates in the country. The track in general is considered to be quite sharp but the course does place quite an emphasis on stamina on account of the uphill climb; while the ground in winter can be particularly demanding so having a horse that stays well is important. 

After the winning post the chase course climbs steadily into the back straight before turning left and the field begins to descend. Races at Kelso can be well-run and while horses might hold a sizable lead at the bottom of the run-in things can quickly change here. Wide-margin winners at Kelso aren’t particularly common and often races can go to the wire.

Kelso Leading Trainers

Over the past five seasons at Kelso it has been Nothern racing stalwarts Nicky Alexander and Stuart Coltherd who have been the trainers whose runners need particluar attention paid to them. Both trainers might only have relatively modest strike-rates at the track over the period but each does show a profit over the term, most notably Alexander. Coltherd meanwhile has the same strike-rate as Sandy Thompson  - the pair sharing the best strike-rate figure - but from less runners. 

Lucinda Russell has had the most runners at the track over the five year period, almost double that of Thomson but the Kinross handler’s runners here haven’t proved particularly successful over the years.

More recently and looking back at the 2021/22 season none of the main trainers with runners at Kelso turned a profit from their runners, Donald McCain showing the best strike-rate but only marginally ahead of Rose Dobbin and Stuart Coltherd respectively. Lucinda Russell turned out the most runners at the track in the season.

Kelso Leading Jockeys

Looking back over the past five seasons Ryan Mania has the best strike-rate of the main jockeys although the Grand National winning rider operates at a slight loss. Craig Nichol, Derek Fox and Sean Quinlan ride Kelso particularly well with all three riders showing a profit from their rides over the period. Brian Hughes also rides plenty of winners at the track.

Looking at the 2021/22 season, while trainers found profit hard to come by both Craig Nichol and Derek Fox rewarded followers with a positive return for their money, the former also showing the best win-rides ratio of the top five riders at the track according to the Racing Post. Ryan Mania and Brian Hughes weren’t far behind in terms of winners but both operated at a loss last term.

Kelso Track History

Horse racing in the vicinity of Kelso racecourse can be traced back to 1734 when meetings would be held five miles from the borders town at Caverton Edge  and subsequently Blakelaw. The current location for the racecourse opened in 1822 on ground locals referred to as Berrymoss, an area of low ground that got particularly wet and soft and was initially known as the Duke’s Course. 

The grandstand was opened the same year and remains erect although has undergone extensive modernisation. The grandstand is a protected building and considered a Class A listed building by Historic Scotland; it along with the racecourse was subject to a failed arson attempt by suffragettes in 1913. 

Kelso racecourse hosted flat racing initially but became a National Hunt course in 1888 following the move by the United Border Hunt to the racecourse.

Kelso Racecourse Address

The official racecourse address for Kelso racecourse is:

The Racecourse

How To get to Kelso Racecourse

By car: The course is one mile north of Kelso on the B6461 Ednam Road. Kelso is off the A698 by the A68 & A7 from Edinburgh and the A699 from the West. Travellers from the south should head towards Newcastle on the A1 and join the A697 towards Coldstream, connecting with the A698 and onwards to the track.

By train: The nearest railway station to Kelso is Tweedbank which sits on the Borders Railway link to Edinburgh. There are shuttle buses operating from the station to and from the track on racedays although these require prebooking and are chargeable. 

For racegoers from the south the closest railway station can be found at Berwick-Upon-Tweed which is around 20 miles from the racecourse. Due to a lack of public transport, taxis from here might be the best way to get to the track from the station although prices might prove prohibitive given the distance.

By bus: There are bus services  which operate via Kelso from Berwick-Upon-Tweed and Galashiels. Travellers by bus from Edinburgh will require to change buses in Galashiels for onward travel to the track. The course is around 20minutes’ walk from the town centre.