The best Christmas present of all?

  • By: Nic Doggett
  • Last Updated: December 21 2013, 14:25 GMT

Nic Doggett guides you through the Christmas programme and looks at the races that might just get you out of talking to the in-laws.

Hurricane Fly: Can he win an 18th Grade One?
Hurricane Fly: Can he win an 18th Grade One?

Sunday 22 December

Not a great day of racing so it's probably worth getting some shopping done, especially groceries.

Studies have shown that the food is freshest in supermarkets on Sundays, due to a high turnover of goods the day before.

Let nobody say that this website isn't informative.

Monday 23 December

The final declarations are released for all of the Boxing Day action, including what is lining up to be a bobby-dazzler of a King George VI Chase.

Monday is also the first of two days without racing; instead, in the absence of the Sport of Kings, I offer you a fact to ponder.

On this day in 1888, Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cut off the lower part of his ear.

Remember that when you complain about having to go to Auntie Mildred's on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday 24 December

Form study. No excuses. Eat one mince pie for every winner you think you've found.

Wednesday 25 December

As Noddy Holder once gargled: "It's Christmas".

Ignore Granny's hairy upper lip, relish a glass of eggnog and cherish your loved ones.

Use up all of your polite "chit-chat" or what the kids might call "banter", as friends and family shouldn't get a look-in from Boxing Day onwards.

Thursday 26 December

The reason for rejecting all invitations, snubbing relatives and offending in-laws begins with Boxing Day.

The King George at Kempton is the big one; Cue Card, Al Ferof, Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti look set to clash in one of the most competitive renewals for years.

Cue Card demolished his rivals at Haydock with a front-running performance that was as precise as a Gustave Courbet painting.

However that race has made the King George puzzle more confusing than an MC Escher drawing, as both Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti, who finished second and third at Haydock, look ideal horses for the Kempton race.

Throw in Ascot winner Al Ferof who jumped the last like Pegasus in Leighton's painting of Perseus hastening to the rescue of Andromeda, and a treat looks in store for racegoers.

(Note to my relatives - no more books on art this year please)

The Christmas Hurdle could also be the greatest match-up since last weekend, as My Tent Or Yours is set to take on the admirably busy The New One.

The card also features the Kauto Star Novices' Chase and we could see a shake-up of the RSA market.

Over in Ireland Analifet could bid to extend her winning sequence to four.

The Triumph Hurdle fancy (7/1 with Sky Bet) is entered in the Grade Two Knight Frank Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Kempton and Leopardstown are just two of the 13 meetings spread across the width and breadth of the UK and Ireland.

Friday 27 December

Friday sees the long-awaited return to action of the best chaser in racing: Sprinter Sacre.

Nicky Henderson's superstar missed the Tingle Creek after a small setback but the word is that he will be at Kempton.

Sire De Grugy appears set to dodge the challenge so it looks another great opportunity to just stare at "The Black Aeroplane" as he sails over birch in splendid isolation.

Meanwhile over in Ireland the Leopardstown card includes two Grade Ones.

The Dial-A-Bet Chase was won 12 months ago by Sizing Europe and Henry De Bromhead's lovely old boy is set to defend his crown.

However with relative whipper-snappers Arvika Ligeonniere and Twinlight amongst the entries, he faces a real battle.

The best novice hurdle of the season looks on the cards in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle 30 minutes later.

Whilst Dubai Prince looks set to represent England, the home challenge will take some beating with Vautour and Moyle Park entered for Willie Mullins.

Mullins won the race with Hurricane Fly in 2008 and has described this year's crop as the best "bunch of novice hurdlers" he has ever had.

The Tullow Tank, currently 14/1 for the Neptune with Sky Bet, also has an entry for Philip Fenton and this year's renewal is shaping up to be a cracker.

Saturday 28 December

The top-quality action continues with the Welsh National at Chepstow.

Expect pictures of jockeys with mud-splattered faces as a big field trudges its way through nearly four miles.

Also on the card is the Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle, whilst there's also Grade One over the Irish Sea.

Firstly, we could see the return of Solwhit in the Christmas Hurdle.

Charles Byrnes' reigning World Hurdle winner - who is 5/1 with Sky Bet for a repeat in March - could be joined by the quality mare Annie Power as well as fellow Willie Mullins inmate Thousand Stars.

The action doesn't stop there though!

Newbury stages the Challow Hurdle which is one possible target for Ballyalton, whilst exciting novice The Liquidator has also been mooted as a likely runner.

Sunday 29 December

Did you think the Festive feast of racing had finished?

No chance.

The Ryanair Hurdle could be the best race of the week.

Hurricane Fly - who regained his Champion Hurdle crown in March - is on target to bid for an 18th Grade One win, but he could face the stiffest test of his career.

And a big danger may lie in his own stable.

Un de Sceaux, the 156-rated five-year-old, won both of his starts last season and could make his eagerly-anticipated reappearance.

Jessica Harrington's own Champion Hurdle hope Jezki and Our Conor, the most impressive Triumph Hurdle winner in years, are also set to line up

What a fitting finale to a great Christmas period of racing that Grade One could be.

So there you go. Lots to see, oodles of form to study and lashings of race replays to watch.. Get stuck in.

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