Lucinda Russell is one of 11 Scottish trainers who have horses qualified for finals day of the new £125,000 Northern Lights race series at Carlisle.
The six-figure prize pot is up for grabs on Sunday (December 3) with plenty of local interest in the series which is designed to promote jump racing in the north and provide greater opportunities for owners and trainers.
Each of the five finals at Carlisle – aimed at mid-tier jump horses – carries prize money of £25,000 and follows 75 qualifying races held exclusively at northern racecourses.
Ahead of entries being announced, Kinross-based Grand National winner Lucinda Russell leads the list of Scottish trainers with eight horses qualified and available to enter.
Asked about the Northern Lights Series, Russell said: “We always had our eye on it and I think it’s fantastic for mid-range horses. I think what’s great with the Northern Lights is it gives those horses a chance.”
Russell’s six-year-old middle-distance hope Forest Des Aigles has been targeted at Carlisle’s finals day and was ridden in the qualifiers by Grand National winning jockey Derek Fox.
Russell added: “We’ve chosen the actual races and I think he’s only raced in qualifiers. He won at Hexham last month when we had him aimed for the November Ayr qualifier, but he came to hand so quickly that we ran him earlier.”
Hot on the heels of Russell is Fife’s Nick Alexander who has six qualifiers. He described the Northern Lights as a “fantastic” initiative when it was launched earlier this year
His qualifiers include 10-year-old Orange Rogue, who has won two of his last three races, at Kelso and Ayr, and he could feature in the Middle Distance Chase. Another Alexander-saddled qualifier is Another Mattie, who also won at Ayr back in March, and he could be set for a shot at the Stayers Hurdle.
Other Scottish trainers involved are Donald Whillans (Hawick), who has four qualifiers, together with Iain Jardine (Dumfries), Mike Smith (East Ayrshire), Sandy Thomson (Kelso) and Alistair Whillans (Hawick) who all have three potential runners.
Stuart Coltherd (Selkirk), with two qualifiers, is joined by James Ewart (Langholm), Jim Goldie (East Renfrewshire) and Raymond Shiels (Roxburgh) who all have one each.
The five finals day races are a 3m handicap chase, 2½m handicap chase, 2m handicap hurdle, 3m handicap hurdle and 2½m mares handicap hurdle.
Geraldine McKay, General Manager at Carlisle Racecourse, said: “The Northern Lights Series is a great initiative by the British Horseracing Authority and The Jockey Club.
“We can’t wait for finals day.”