Kelso Racecourse

Address:
18-20 Glendale Road, Wooler, Northumberland, NE71 6DW - Map & Directions
Telephone:
01668 281041
Kelso Racecourse Entrance
Kelso Racecourse Entrance (Walter Baxter / geograph.org.uk)

Kelso is a racecourse located in Scotland and on its own website describes itself as ‘Britain’s friendliest racecourse’. In both 2007 and 2012, the Racegoers Club voted Kelso as the Best Small Course in Scotland and the North of England and it is undoubtedly an excellent and welcoming course. The first recorded race in Kelso was officially in 1734, however the site of the current course was not built until 1822. Flat track racing was run there until 1888 but now it is officially an exclusive National Hunt course. The site at Kelso is situated just two miles north of the town centre.

The main grandstand was built alongside the course in 1822 prior to opening and has remained pretty much untouched, besides mandatory modern furnishings. Kelso is located just off the A698 and can be accessed by the A68 and A7 when travelling from Edinburgh, or the A699 when travelling from the west. It is recommended that visitors to the course do so by car, as the nearest railway station is Berwick-on-Tweed, which is 22 miles away. With a lack of bus options, the only way to get from the station to the course would be via a taxi, making accessibility somewhat difficult.

Ticket Prices

Ticket prices at Kelso vary depending on the day of the week, with weekend fixtures being more popular and in demand and consequently more expensive. For a weekend meeting, entry to the paddock costs £15 whilst access to the Members Enclosure is priced at £20. On weekdays, these prices are reduced to £13 and £16 respectively. Those under the age of 17 are allowed free entry when accompanied by a full paying adult.

The Course

Scotland’s Kelso only holds National Hunt race meetings but it’s a place that offers two distinct courses. Both are left handed and moderately flat but the steeplechase course, relatively short at just at 1m 3f in circumference, is actually significantly longer and not quite as sharp. There are nine fences, which are unevenly distributed so it is a difficult place for inexperienced horses and requires some skilled riding at times.

The hurdles course is partly situated side by side with the steeplechase course but the back straight is much closer to the stands. Only 1m 1f in length, the reduced circumference makes this course a fair degree sharper and more suited to agile horses. Whether it’s hurdles or steeplechase though, Kelso remains a stiff and demanding place but also one you should consider to be fair.

Stamina Remains Important

Before October 2012, the final hurdle and the final fence stood two furlongs away from the winning post at Kelso. At a course that receives plenty of rainfall during the winter months, this often meant runners faced a gruelling slog to the line. Having since moved both obstacles closer to the finish, there is less emphasis on stamina than before but it still remains an important aspect of many races here.

Even with the shorter-run in, the shape of the race can easily change after the final jump. Horses often find themselves running backwards at this point particularly when conditions are testing. Such ground is far from a rarity at Kelso either and if the official reading is heavy you can be sure that they mean it in the full sense of the term.

Aside from stamina, jumping ability is also important too as Kelso has one of the highest casualty rates in the country on the chase course. The fences themselves aren’t particularly testing per se but they become a lot more challenging when legs are tiring. The sharpness of the turns on the hurdles course also puts extra strain on horses.

Major Meetings at Kelso

The Grandstand from Berryhill
The Grandstand from Berryhill (Oliver Dixon / geograph.org.uk)

There are 13 race meetings at Kelso each year and the major steeplechase race is the King’s Own Challenge Cup, which is run over a testing distance of 3m1f. The most prestigious hurdles race run each year at Kelso is the Grade 2 Premier Kelso Hurdle. The Kelso Hurdle is a 2m2f race that was first run in 1993 and takes place each year either in late February or early March.

Dining and Hospitality

Kelso Racecourse
Kelso Racecourse (Jim Barton / geograph.org.uk)

Private boxes with exceptional hospitality are available to hire at Kelso and they come in three separate price packages, with the most expensive being the Tweedie Platinum, which is priced at a still-very-reasonable £80 per head.

The Hamilton package comes in two different categories – Silver and Gold – and they cost £60 per person and £65 per person respectively. The cheapest hospitality package available is the Pavilion Package which is valued at £55 per person.

Map

Swap Start/End

Grudge Matches