Christmas-time is made for a flutter at the races, isn’t it? The excitement of a little extra time off with the family; that nice new winter coat itching to get its first wear out, and some Christmas cash from Aunt Mary burning a hole in your pocket, all contribute to the urge to work off that turkey dinner during a brisk December day at the local racecourse.
Lucky enough for us, the UK horse racing industry provides a festive outlet for its punters up and down the country – so if you fancy booking in a day at the races this Christmas, read on for our top picks.
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Kempton Park, Surrey
We’ll start with arguably the highest-profile of the Boxing Day meets at the Kempton Park racecourse in Sunbury-on-Thames, on the outskirts of London.
Not only will the meet at Kempton Park satisfy your urge for a post-Christmas jolly, but it is also the home to the Grade 1, £250,000 King George VI chase, sponsored by Ladbrokes – who are the name sponsors of the two-day meet known as the Ladbrokes Christmas Festival.
The Boxing Day meet is the opening day of an event which comprises of twelve jump races in a 48-hour period. Other high-profile races include the Grade 1 £130,000 Christmas Hurdle, as well as the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase, worth £100,000.
If you’re not fussy, tickets for the event start as low as £20 per person, although if you’d like to enjoy your horse racing in some style, hospitality packages are also available through The Jockey Club.
It may not carry the bombastic prize fund of the Kempton Park meet, but the Huntingdon Boxing Day event also rates highly on our list for its sheer festive joy.
Tickets start at just £10 to get into the event, which is held at the racecourse 20 miles south of Peterborough. A stacked seven-race card is on the menu at Huntingdon, which expects to host over 8,000 for its Christmas meet.
In fact, the event is so popular that hospitality packages have already sold out, so don’t drag your heels if you’re thinking of joining the fun.
Wolverhampton, West Midlands
Renowned for its holiday meets, the Wolverhampton racecourse is the pick of the options for those in the Midlands.
The racecourse is easily accessible, so winter weather should not be a problem, and the course’s floodlit, all-weather track means that, barring an act of God, you’re pretty much guaranteed a day at the races in the Black Country.
Like Huntingdon, Wolverhampton boasts a seven-race card, and a number of hospitality options are available – including a Ringside Restaurant package, which includes a three-course meal, table service, a race-card and the best seats in the house for just £62.50 per person.
Fontwell Park, West Sussex
Another seven-carder, Fontwell Park’s website proudly boasts that its traditional Boxing Day meet offers “thousands of racegoers” the chance to escape what it calls the “chaotic Christmas celebrations.”
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean a sleepy afternoon at the track – far from it. The track is transformed into a “winter wonderland,” which includes a giant snow-globe and Santa’s sleigh aesthetic for the children – alongside face painting and fun-fair rides.
The race-card is scheduled around goings-on elsewhere, too, which means that those who attend the course near Arundel can also watch the £250,000 King George VI Chase happening at Kempton Park on the big screen.
There are a variety of ticketing options, including a raft of hospitality packages, available through the course’s website – although, like all good events, they are predicted to sell out sooner rather than later.
The South West has a rich and storied horse racing tradition, and Wincanton, in Somerset, carries the torch for the region on Boxing Day.
Another seven-card event, Wincanton offers a value-for-money event which includes discounted tickets for group purchases – the perfect offering for a family occasion. In addition, under-18s get in free – making it arguably the most affordable race day on the market this Christmastime.
Hospitality options are available, from the price of £72, and live music is offered from Bristol-based jazz and swing band, The Hipcats.
The race-card is varied, too, with three hurdles and three chases on offer, before the final event, the 3:45 Standard Open National Hunt Flat, sends everyone home hungry for minced pies and turkey sandwiches.
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