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Kelso – Preview 16th February 2024

Gordon Brown – Race Reporter

Gordon has a wealth of experience of racing through his background in the written and broadcast media. His current principle role is reporting and supporting the scene in Scotland on Racing TV and relaying the latest news with Scottish angles.

LOCALLY-trained Empire Steel, returning from wind surgery,  starts his countdown to Grand National glory in the feature race at Kelso on Friday.

Sandy Thomson’s Lambden raider, ridden by Ryan Mania, faces four rivals in the £22,500 Racing’s Best Ratings With Timeform Handicap Chase.

“We’ll find out what he will carry at Aintree in April when the weights come out on Tuesday,” said Thomson. “We also had him in the Grand National Trial at Haydock but this suited better and it’s right on our doorstep.

“All being well, after this, he could go to Cheltenham or come back to Kelso for another run to put him spot on for the National.”

Rivals to Empire Steel include Donald McCain’s top-weight Richmond Lake and Nicky Richards-trained Nells Son, winner of the 2022 Grade 2 Premier Hurdle at Kelso.

Ginger Mail, who returned to winning form at Kelso’s opening fixture of the year last month, goes in search of a course and distance follow-up in the Church House Investment Management Handicap Hurdle.

The handicapper hasn’t been too severe in raising Nick Alexander’s charge 4lbs for his three and a half length strike under Danny McMenamin.

Lucinda Russell, who is represented by last year’s hero Corach Rambler in the Grand National, is a great supporter of Kelso and she is double-handed in the Johnston Smillie Novices’ Hurdle by Northern Cardinal and Primoz, whom she described as “the horse of a lifetime” after his Rules debut romp at Ayr in November.

Likely favourite Super Citizen is the first runner under Rules for Lucinda Hughes, who is the wife of three-time champion jump jockey Brian Hughes.