The holiday season in Britain wouldn’t be complete without a jam-packed sporting schedule. From December through the new year, fans across the nation are captivated by the electrifying PDC Darts World Championship. But on Boxing Day, get ready for a turbocharged spectacle like no other.
It’s not just the thrilling knockout matches at Ally Pally, that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. You can also bank on a massive football schedule from the Premier League right down to League Two. But for fans right across the UK, the day isn’t complete without a blockbuster horse racing lineup that is primed and ready to accompany those leftover turkey sandwiches. 26th of December racing has been a staple of the festive period for centuries and there’s no sign of it losing steam, especially with a lineup like the one on display in 2023.
Since the mid-19th century, this fancy day on the sports calendar has become a cherished holiday tradition. The most esteemed racecourses in the UK, like Kempton, Huntingdon, and Wetherby, put on races every year, drawing in a horde of spectators ready to soak in all the thrilling action.
Every Boxing Day, all eyes turn to Kempton Park for the grandest event of them all. It’s none other than the legendary King George VI Chase, a race that has graced us with its presence since 1937. This magnificent spectacle is hailed as one of the crème de la crème in British horse racing. Nestled in the charming heart of Surrey, the course itself breathes with an electric atmosphere on race day. It’s a magnet that attracts the finest equines and jockeys from all corners of the country.
This epic race is a top-notch steeplechase, spanning a whopping 3 miles. It’s well-known for attracting the best National Hunt horses in the country, and this year will be no different. Last year, the Paul Nicholl’s trained Bravemans game pocketed a mighty £250,000 with his victory and this year, the reigning champ has been made the white-hot +200 favorite by horse racing betting odds. But don’t underestimate the ever-popular Shishkin, who is the second favorite at +400.
Next up, let’s talk about the Desert Orchid Chase. Now, this race is named after the fantastic horse with its same namesake that managed to win the prestigious King George VI Chase not just once or twice, but a remarkable four times during the 1980s. The previously mentioned Shishkin had a fantastic year in 2021 when he romped to glory. However, let us introduce you to the current ruler of the racing realm – Editeur Du Gite! This French foal, trained by the one and only Gary Moore, earned a whopping £56,000 with his victory last year. Despite the nine-year-old starting to reach the twilight of his career, he is bound to be listed among the front runners once more once the betting odds are posted.
Finally, we have our ultimate pick, Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle. The legendary race is the jewel in the crown of the Boxing Day lineup and has huge implications for Cheltenham Festival which takes place just a matter of months down the road. Over the years, it has witnessed the finest hurdlers in the world showcasing their skills on the track.
Former champions like Constitution Hill and Epatante have triumphed in this one, setting their stall out to then go on and dominate at the biggest event in racing the following spring.
The Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby is like the hidden gem of the Boxing Day lineup. It may not have the same fame as the others, but that doesn’t make it any less thrilling. This winter escape in the heart of Yorkshire promises exciting racing action in the White Rose County. The county hosts plenty of thrilling events at Wetherby and nearby Doncaster, home of the prestigious St Leger Stakes each September. While the Rowland Meyrick might not boast the same fortune, there’s still a handsome £40,000 purse awaiting the victor.
The Wetherby racecourse has got it all – the camaraderie, the celebration, and a whole dose of excitement. The dynamic duo of Jockey Sam and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies smashed their way to victory in 2021 with the amazing Good Boy Bobby. And guess what? They’re back, ready to conquer the race once again this year.
Coming up next, we’ve got the fabulous Welsh Grand National at Chepstow. Now, we can practically read your thoughts: “Hold on a sec, the race isn’t on the 26th but the 27th?” Well, let’s not get caught up in technicalities. The fact remains that the Welsh Grand National is a real gem of the festive racing season, even if it happens to fall right after Boxing Day. The race has been hosted at Chepstow since 1949, a course that is famed for its challenging jumps and tricky conditions.