All roads lead to Kempton and Chepstow over the Christmas period with the King George VI Chase and Welsh Grand National the two standout highlights for jumps fans.
Kempton’s two-day 32Red Winter Festival, held on Boxing Day and December 27th, has played host to some epic rivalries and top-class performances, including Kauto Star’s emotional win in the 2011 King George and My Tent Or Yours and The New One’s tussle in the 2013 Christmas Hurdle.
This year’s King George promises to be another hugely competitive race with last year’s hero Might Bite leading the field alongside Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai, who will attempt to land the second leg of the £1 million bonus. Rising star Waiting Patiently looks likely to make his comeback in the Grade 1 contest, while Gold Cup winner Native River and 2016 King George scorer Thistlecrack are a powerful duo for Colin Tizzard.
The other top-level contest on Boxing Day, the Christmas Hurdle, has been won by numerous Champion Hurdle winners including Buveur D’Air last season and by the brilliant Faugheen in 2014 and 2015.
Potential runners this year include Buveur D’Air, alongside recent Coral Hurdle scorer If The Cap Fits and last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Summerville Boy.
The following day attention turns to Chepstow and the Welsh Grand National, a race that tests runners and punters alike. Won last season by the veteran Raz De Maree, who may very well return to defend his crown, this year’s field could include Cheltenham Festival runner-up Ms Parfois and Vintage Clouds, who impressed on his seasonal re-appearance on Betfair Chase day at Haydock.
At Kempton, the Desert Orchid Chase and Wayward Lad Chase take centre stage. The former, which has been won by the likes of Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy, usually attracts leading Champion Chase contenders, while the Wayward Lad is an opportunity for novice chasers to showcase their claims for the Racing Post Arkle.
For racegoers unable to make Kempton or Chepstow, there's a plethora of Christmas meetings up and down Britain - Wetherby's Rowland Meyrick Chase day is one particular northern highlight, while Sedgefield, Huntingdon, Wincanton, Fontwell, Market Rasen and Wolverhampton all throw open their doors for festive racing fans.
The new year begins with a cracking card at Cheltenham, including the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle, which has been won by the likes of Wholestone and 2014 Stayers’ Hurdle hero More Of That.