Let the Battle Commence! - By Cornelius Lysaght

Let the Battle Commence! - By Cornelius Lysaght

Rewired is Declared for the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso

The ironic thing about the Scottish Borders village of Morebattle is that the history books indicate that there’s probably never really been anything more brutal than a conker fight there – in contrast to the sometimes fierce encounters seen in the hurdle-race named in its honour. 

The Morebattle Hurdle, staged nine miles away at Kelso as the centrepiece of the course’s most valuable day of the season, is the most prestigious and valuable race of its type staged in Scotland. 

Kelso Racecourse

Sponsored by Bet365 and with an increased purse of £120,000 this year, the race has been used as a stepping stone to the spring festivals at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown, though, actually, the entry fee is smaller and the pot bigger than for Cheltenham’s County Hurdle. 

Some big names have been travelled to picturesque Kelso, with its olde worlde stand and enthusiastic, rural crowds, but several have found that despite the course’s reputation for friendliness (as owners and supporters of Rewired will hopefully soon be able to confirm) the opposition has sometimes proved pretty hostile. 

Years ago, there was a prolific hurdler named Jinxy Jack, trained by Nicky Richards’ father Gordon, which won the race four times on the trot, but on a couple of occasions Jinxy was forced to pull out all the stops before taking the trophies home. 

And not long afterwards, despite going off at odds of 6/4 ON, Large Action, a star horse trained by Oliver Sherwood and ridden by Jamie Osborne in his riding days, found a lightly-weighted rival hard to pass until the final strides – a few weeks later, he went on to be runner-up to Alderbrook in a vintage 1995 Champion Hurdle. 

Though, perhaps most famously, Zaynar, the Champion Hurdle favourite at the time, went off at 1/14 in 2010 after being sent by Nicky Henderson on the 700-mile-plus round trip to Kelso from Lambourn; however, he was sent home with his tail firmly between his legs by the 12-1 second favourite Quwetwo (pron: QE2, to save it irritating you).

In the process, Zaynar became one of the shortest-priced losers in jump racing history – there’s been a 1/20 example since – and eventually he finished third behind stablemate Binocular in the big one at the Festival. 

Things are different now, in almost every way for the better: first of all, the prizemoney was just £10,662 for Quwetwo – Rewired is due to chase £61,728 – and the race itself has become an open handicap, offering more chances, with the distance reduced by a quarter-mile to two miles. 

Also, though it doesn’t apply in Rewired’s case, a £100,000 bonus is available if the winner goes onto success at Cheltenham, plus the whole day is a key part of ITV’s coverage. 

All of which adds up to a highly competitive, sought-after prize, with, additionally, its prestige boosting the other races on the card, including the Premier Novices’ Hurdle and Premier Chase, both of which offer significant pointers to the future. 

Opulence Thoroughbreds’ Rewired, one of the standard-bearers for the new training partnership of Dr Richard Newland and Jamie Insole and well-handled by their conditional jockey Luke Scott, earned his place in the Morebattle when positively dancing away to win at Taunton in February. He went up seven pounds but to a weight level that still looks manageable. 

The six-year-old was following up a December success at Doncaster, and is a credit to all concerned – as well as to himself – having won five races from fourteen starts since joining the Opulence stable, never finishing out of the first four.

So, as they probably don’t say in Morebattle: let battle commence!