The Northern Area Point-to-Point circuit heads to Scotland for the three scheduled meetings in the remainder of the month, starting with the Duke of Buccleuch's seven-race card at Friars Haugh, Kelso. The main action kicks off at 1.00pm, and for the first time will be preceded by pony racing from noon. The three contests on a four-furlong course along the riverside straight have attracted a total of 28 entries plus five reserves.
Firth Of Vic looks the one to beat in the opening Jockey Club Mares' Maiden. Robert Goldie's homebred youngster showed the best turn of foot in the closing stages when making a winning debut in the two-mile Alnwick Flat Race in January and shouldn't be inconvenienced by this three-and-a-quarter-mile trip on her switch to fences. Of the other eight entries, Solstice Twilight and Midnightmistress were beaten a minimum of 14 lengths by Matthew Man here last time out, while Tip Stream finished five lengths 3rd to Dressedforsuccess in a slowly run affair at Mosshouses last April.
Al Le Gone, Okey Dokey, Teds Charley Roe and Wheelbahri were all placed here in January at the Jedforest meeting and should again be in the mix in the Open Maiden (11 entries). The latter caught the eye when ten lengths 3rd to Dream Over in a two-and-a-half-mile contest and this longer trip should suit him better. The other one to note is the locally trained Just Don't Know, who was up with the leaders and going well when falling five out in the Jedforest equivalent.
The Lucinda Russell-trained mare Miss Batten might not have the best recent form figures but is expected to get her career back on track in the Intermediate under Cameron Wadge, who has been doing all the schooling work on her at home. Doldrum Bay and Passnotalegend landed weaker events at Balcormo Mains and Overton respectively last season and are both returning from lengthy breaks. Alone No More had a hard race when one length 2nd to Mr Pepperpot at Alnwick last Sunday. After landing a Portrush Maiden contest in October, Hard Ground joined Marlborough trainer Gearoid Costelloe and is top-rated here on the strength of last month's Higham Restricted victory. If he makes the 700-mile round trip, it won't just be for a change of scenery.
Abbeyview, Dutch Canyon and Landecker are the pick of the eight Ladies' Open entries. Abbeyview finished eight lengths 2nd to Takethepunishment here in January but is yet to reproduce last season's impressive form. Dutch Canyon enjoyed a purple patch in May and June last year, getting off the mark in a Haydon Maiden before again making all the running to win three-mile Class 5 Chases at Hexham and Cartmel. The Nick Alexander-trained gelding Landecker has recorded all six career wins over hurdles at Kelso. He shaped well when twelve lengths 3rd to the useful Son Of Suzie in the Jedforest equivalent seven weeks ago and, on paper, this looks a weaker affair.
Last year's winner Killer Crow can do the business again in the Men's Open against a maximum of four rivals. He beat Roo Roo a shade cosily by three lengths in the Jedforest equivalent and has been freshened up by a six-week break since finishing 4th at Alnwick. The in-form Mr Mercurial is top-rated but this week's Cheltenham Foxhunters' Chase is his main priority. The main threat to Killer Crow is likely to come from Eco Warrior, who is unbeaten on his last four visits to Friars Haugh in Conditions Races and ran a blinder last time out when two-and-a-half lengths 3rd to Virak in a Musselburgh Hunters' Chase.
Takethepunishment had plenty in hand when making a winning reappearance here in January, and a follow-up is on the cards in the NPPA Conditions Race (10 entries). Of the others, Arizona Bound and Sorcier had hard races when 3rd and 4th respectively at Alnwick last Sunday. More Madness probably needed the run on his return from a nine-month break when 4th at the Jedforest fixture, while My Liege led close home when beating Mr Pepperpot by a short head in the Jedforest Intermediate.
The concluding Hunt Conditions Race has 8 entries, including several veteran campaigners – Molten Brown (15), Pyjama Game (14), Settledoutofcourt (14) and Sharney Sike (14) – with the first two having both won here in the past. Wayupinthesky has course form figures of 2121 since February 2016 and led near the finish when beating Pyjama Game by a head in a Conditions Race on last year's card.
The postcode for Satnav users is TD5 8LS, and the picturesque Friars Haugh course lies adjacent to the A699 near the River Tweed on the outskirts of Kelso.