Kelso Races Ltd is a not-for-profit company whose purpose is to promote jump racing in the north of Britain while benefiting the local community through employment, tourism trade and the provision of facilities. All profits from the business are reinvested, either into the race programme or into capital projects to improve the facilities.
Kelso Racecourse typically stages 14 to15 fixtures per annum. Fixtures take place throughout the Winter, starting in September and concluding with the social event of the season: Ladies Day at the end of May.
The most prestigious event of the year, featuring Kelso’s most valuable races, takes place on the first Saturday in March. The £120,000 bet365 Morebattle Hurdle attracts many of the best hurdlers in Britain and Ireland and the race boasts an additional bonus of £100,000 if the winner can go on and win any race at the Cheltenham Festival later in the same month. The supporting programme includes the Premier Steeplechase (a recognised trial for the Grand National) and the Premier Hurdle (one of the most important novice hurdle races staged annually in Britain).
Records exist of racing taking place near the town of Kelso, at Caverton Edge, prior to 1734. But the foundation stone for Kelso’s Listed Grandstand was laid on 12th July 1822, when the Berrymoss became the first purpose-built racecourse in Scotland. The Sporting Magazine of 1821 explained, “The Duke of Roxburghe has lately purchased the Berrymoss at Kelso for the purpose of forming it into a racecourse. His Grace means to erect an elegant stand upon the ground, with a tavern underneath, and in all respects to make the course and its accompaniments as complete as possible.”
There were, of course, other venues that regularly staged horseracing in Scotland, but none had permanent facilities designed for the purpose and the races were usually staged as part of other festivities. The first meeting to take place on the Berrymoss, on 16th April 1823, was a Flat race staged in heats, as was common at the time. The first jump fixture took place in 1883, five years before Flat racing ceased in 1888.
Built to a design by the renowned architect John Carr, the Listed Grandstand remains relatively unchanged since the year that it was built and is of significant architectural importance. For several decades the ground floor has been occupied by the jockeys’ changing rooms, Weighing Room and Stewards’ Room. The first floor and the roof terrace are still used by spectators to watch the racing. A refurbishment programme has been drawn up for the building, although this will require the jockeys and officials to be relocated first.
The next phase of racecourse’s development, therefore, is the construction of a new two-storey building (referred to in the planning stage as the ‘Bicentenary Building’) which will be located adjacent to the parade ring. While the ground floor will provide accommodation for jockeys and officials, as well as a jockeys’ medical centre, the first floor will provide hospitality space, particularly for racehorse owners with runners.