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Kempton Christmas Festival Boxing Day Meeting + 27th December 2024 – Featuring King George VI Chase

kempton racecourse winning horse post raceThe Christmas Festival, formerly the Winter Festival until 2022, has never really caught on as a name, most people know this event at Kempton as ‘the Boxing Day meeting’ featuring the famous King George VI Chase. The Festival is however about more than just one race and is in fact a two-day meeting that runs on both the 26th and 27th December and features now less than five Grade 1 and 2 races.

The King George is the second most prestigious race of the jump season offering over £245k in prize money. The race was named after the new monarch King George in 1937 and following WWII moved to Boxing Day where it has become as much a part of the festive season as turkey and trimmings. The big race is only one of three grade 1 races on the 26th and there will be plenty of time to reinvest some winnings the very next day (27th) with a further two grade races to look forward to.

Below you will find the best deals both ante-post and during the festival. Further down there is information about the racecard and feature races.

Kempton Winter Festival Betting Offers for 2024

This event has not started yet, please check back nearer the time. For other offers see our main loyalty page.

Kempton Winter Festival and Race Card

kempton racecourse winning post and crowd

The Christmas Festival hosts the King Geroge VI Chase, the second most prestigious national hunt race after the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

There is much more to the event than just this race though, the event is packed with top grade racing over the two days with racegoers and punters in a typically jovial festive mood.

The event has a captive audience due to the holiday season and for those lucky enough to have both days off there is a lot of top level live racing to watch and bet on.

Boxing Day Meeting – Sunday 26th December 2023

Time Race Grade Distance
12:45 Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase Class 3 – Handicap 2m 4f 110y
1:20 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase Class 1 – Grade 1 3m
1:55 Christmas Hurdle Class 1 – Grade 1 2m
2:30 King George VI Chase Class 1 – Grade 1 3m
3:05 Maiden Hurdle Class 2 – Hurdle 2m
3:40 Handicap Hurdle Class 3 – Handicap 2m 5f

KEY: m – Miles, f – furlong(s), y – yards

Racing gets underway with a smaller race to ease us into the action, good news if you’re running late with a hangover from the previous day.

The first race is a two and a half mile novices limited handicap chase, expect a field of around 5-8 for this, followed by nice 2-and-a-half-mile handicap. This larger field race is open to younger three year old’s and over and is a great one to pick an outsider each way to invest in the big races that follow.

The first of three back to back grade one races is up next, the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. This is a distance run over 3 miles and 18 fences for 4yo+ nags and was originally called the Feltham Novices’ Chase before it was renamed permanently after the 5 time King George winner Kauto Star in 2013.

In 2015 the race was won by Lizzie Kelly’s on Tea For Two, she became the first woman to win a grade 1 race in the UK. The purse for this race is in the range of £100k.

kempton racecourse parade ring and horse

Next up it’s another grade 1 race to whet the appetite before the big one. The Christmas Hurdle is a 2 miler with a £126,000 prize fund for 4-year old’s and over. The 8 fence run is also the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown of Hurdling.

The King George VI Chase goes off at 3 in the afternoon, perfect timing for after lunch. The 3-mile race with 18 jumps carries a prize purse of over £245,000 this year with around £143k for the winner. The race has been won by some of the world’s most famous names, including Kauto Star (5 times) and Desert Orchid (4 times), it is a must win for any future legend.

The race with a field of about 10 horses is open to 4yo’s and over. Trainer Paul Nicholls has won the race an astonishing 13 times. You can read more about the history of this race further down the page.

Boxing Day at Kempton is finished off with a maiden hurdle for 4-year old’s and up over a 2-mile course followed by a nice two mile five furlong handicap hurdle for 3yo+ horses to bring an exciting day of racing to a close.

Christmas Festival Day 2 – Monday 27th December 2023

Time Race Grade Distance
12:45 Handicap Hurdle Class 3 – Handicap 2m
1:20 Introductory Juvenile Hurdle Class 2 – Hurdle 2m
1:55 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase Class 1 – Grade 2 2m
2:30 Desert Orchid Chase Class 1 – Grade 2 2m
3:09 Handicap Chase Class 2 – Handicap 3m
3:40 Mares’ Handicap Hurdle Class 2 – Handicap 3m 110y

KEY: m – Miles, f – furlong(s), y – yards

kempton racecourse parade ring tv crewIt actually surprises many people when they learn that the Winter Festival takes place over two days.  Unlike in other years, this year the 27th falls on a Tuesday but is still a bank holiday thanks to Christmas falling on Sunday, meaning most of us can sit back and enjoy the racing.

Day two gets going with a nice class 3 handicap hurdle for three year old plus to lead us in to the racing as we potentially recover from a hangover.  Next we have a 2-mile Juvenile Hurdle for 3-year-old+ horses.

The first grade race of the day is up third, the grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase. This 12 fence race over 2 miles was originally longer at 2 ½ miles before being shortened in 2000. This is another race named after a famous King George winner, Wayward lad, who won the big race three times in the 1980’s.  This is followed in third by a smaller field Mares’ Handicap Hurdle over a just over three miles

The fourth race and second grade 2 run, the Desert Orchid Chase, is also the biggest race of day two. This race is also named after a King George VI Chase legend, Desert Orchid, who won it on four occasions from 1986-1990. It was first run in 2006 and named after the 4-time winner who died a few weeks prior. This 2 miler also goes over twelve fences and commands a prize fund over £98,300.

The second day of the Christmas festival ends with two longer back to back handicaps, great for picking a long odds runner to place.  The first open to 3yo+ horses over 3 miles and the second restricted to 3yo+ mares over a slightly longer 3 miles and 110y.

About the Winter Festival & Feature Races

horses in the snow

The Winter Festival or Christmas Festival, whatever you want to call it, is just a modern name for what was always called the Boxing Day Meeting at Kempton. There is some truth in the names though, the event does have a festive atmosphere, especially on the second day. In addition to the show piece racing there is a variety of free entertainment for children with festive food stalls and shops.

From 2020 the festival moved to a new sponsor, Ladbrokes, who have took over from 32Red who sponsored the winter festival since 2016, it was Willam Hill before that.  If you want any evidence that bookies love this meeting you can see that from the sponsorship history.

If you are planning on attending gates open at 10:30am and the address is: Staines Road East, Sunbury, TW16 5AQ. Parking is free and note that train services do not run on Boxing Day, there is a bus service from Kew Station in London for those coming down from London.

King George VI Chase

kempton racecourse parade ringThis famous race is named after King George VI who unexpectedly took the British throne following the abdication of his older brother King Edward. The race was named after the new monarch and first run in 1937, there were however only two races before the outbreak of WWII at which time the race was cancelled and Kempton used as a prisoner of war camp.

The first ever race was won by Southern Hero who still holds the crown of the oldest winner of the King George. The race returned in 1947 on a new date, Boxing Day, where it has remained since. Kempton being only 16 miles from London quickly became the place to go for a day out at the races following Christmas for many in the capital.

The three mile right handed race is run over eighteen fences and all horses over four years. There are no less than fifteen horses who have won the event more than once, these include record holder Kauto Star, 5-time winner as well as Desert Orchid (4), Wayward Lad (3), and, more recently, Silviniaco Conti (2). Clan des Obeaux won back to back races in 2018 and 2019.

Bryony Frost became the first female jockey to win the elite grade 1 race in 2020, riding 20/1 shot Frodon to victory over Clan des Obeaux, who was looking for a third consecutive win.  Frost also made history the year before becoming the first woman to win a grade 1 race at the Cheltenham Festival.  Paul Nichols has won this race a mind-blowing thirteen times, so look out for his horses on the race card.

The race has been cancelled several times due to snow and frost and was moved twice to Sandown, in 1995 for frost and in 2005 for redevelopment work at Kempton.

Kauto Star Novices’ Chase

Traditionally taking place on Boxing Day, the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase originally bore the moniker of the Feltham Novices’ Chase but took on its current title in 2012. It was named in honour of the 5-time King George VI Chase winner, Kauto Star, and has always been a chase for novices. Unlike Kauto Star in the Festival’s most prestigious race, therefore, no horse has won it more than once.

Run over around 3 miles and featuring 18 fences, it made the headlines in 2015 when Lizzie Kelly won on the back of Tea For Two and became the first female jockey to win a UK Grade 1 race. Some big names have found themselves on the winner’s podium for this race on more than one occasion, including Tony McCoy, Ruby Walsh and Richard Dunwoody. Interestingly, no sooner had Kelly broken the glass ceiling in 2015 did Bryony Frost follow in her footsteps two years later.

Josh Gifford, Fulke Walwyn and David Pipe have all won the race more than once, but it’s those trainers Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson who lead the way with 5 wins each to date.

If you’re interested to know what this race might tell you about future events then you might like to bear in mind that Bacchanal won it in 2000 before winning the Long Distance Hurdle two years later, whilst Long Run followed up his win in 2009 with King George VI Chase wins in 2011 and 2012 and a Cheltenham Gold Cup also in 2011. Coneygree also won this race in 2014 and then the Gold Cup the year after.

Christmas Hurdle

Inaugurated in 1969 and also run on Boxing Day, appropriately enough, the Christmas Hurdle has its origins in the Kempton Park Handicap Hurdle. That race was run several times in the 1960s but didn’t take place in 1967 or 1968 because of weather and when it returned it had been rebranded as the Christmas Hurdle and was no longer raced as a handicap.

Between 1973 and 2023 six different horses have won this race before going on to win the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, so keep an eye on who’s victorious here if you’re thinking of having a wager in that race. If they’re going to be successful then they’ll need to negotiate the 8 hurdles that feature during the 2 miles of running. It’s for horses aged 4 and over and has the following information attached:

  • Weight: 11 stone 7 pounds
  • Fillies and mares get a 7 pound allowance
  • Run right-handed

Several horses have won the race more than once, though none have won it more than twice.  That may change in 2024 after Constitution Hill won the race in both 2022 and 2023 and if entered in 2024 no one will be betting against him.  He went on to win the Champion Hurdle in 2023.

Perhaps the most notable other horse to do so in recent times is Faugheen, who won it in 2014 and 2015 in amongst a host of other impressive wins like the aforementioned Champion Hurdle in 2015.

No jockey has won the race more times than Tony McCoy, 5 wins, and no trainer can touch Nicky Henderson’s success in this event with 12 wins.

Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase

This race is for horses aged 4 and over and is run over a distance of around 2 miles. It was run over a longer distance originally and then disappeared from the map altogether in 1999, returning in 2000 at its current length. It’s a Grade 2 race that features 12 fences, being aimed at novice chasers and enjoying a number of different sponsors over the years.

Named in honour of Wayward Lad, who won the King George VI Chase in 1982, 1983 and 1985, it has been won by some special horses over the years.

Altior, one of the most impressive jumpers of recent times, won it in 2016, for example, whilst Sprinter Sacre won it in 2011. Barry Geraghty and Mick Fitzgerald have both won it more than once as jockeys, whilst even Paul Nicholls’s six wins as trainer can’t come close to Nicky Henderson’s ten.

Desert Orchid Chase

Generally considered to be the feature race of the second day of the Winter Festival, the Desert Orchid Chase is named after the horse that won the King George VI Chase four times in five years between 1986 and 1990. He died just a few weeks before this race’s inaugural running, with his ashes being spread over Kempton Park Racecourse prior to the race getting underway.

A Grade 2 race for horses aged 4 and over, it lasts for around 2 miles and replaced the Castleford Chase when it was given its current classification. There are 12 fences to be jumped during the race’s running and some impressive horses have won it in the past. The likes of Voy Por Ustedes, Editeur De Gite, Special Tiara, Sprinter Sacre, Altior, Shishkin, Nube Negra and have all been victorious, with the first three of those horses winning it twice.

In that sense it can be seen as something of a clue-giver for future races, with Finian’s Rainbow winning this in 2011 before winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Melling Chase the year after. Sire de Grugy is another example of a horse who won here before going on to claim the Queen Mother Champion Chase later in the season, whilst Special Tiara won this in 2014 and 2016 and the Queen Mother in 2017.

In 2018 Altior won the race before going on to win the QM Chase back to back in 2018 and 2019. Interestingly, Sprinter Sacre sandwiched two Queen Mother wins in 2013 and 2016 either side of a win in this race in 2015.  Protologue also won in 2017 and followed up with a QM Chase win in 2020.

When you consider that Voy Por Ustedes also won this race twice, with his first one coming in the same season as a Queen Mother Champion Chase win, it’s fair to say that if you’re going to place a bet on that particular Cheltenham Festival offering then it’s worth having a look at which horses have won this race recently.

Kempton Racecourse

kempton racecourse winners getting thophyKempton is a typical racecourse in the south east of England. Set in the rolling grassland of Sunbury-on-Thames in Surrey the course is flat with a lake in the center. The railway station entrance is adjacent to course, very useful for racegoers traveling down from London.

The course was founded by S.H. Hyde, a businessman in the 19th Century. He noticed the Kempton manor and park was for sale while passing in a carriage in 1872 so he leased the grounds and in 1878 opened the racecourse.

The only remnants of the manor are the original gate posts although there was a manor documented on the site in the Doomsday book.

kempton racecourse

Kempton has seen almost non-stop racing since it was opened and has remained a particular favorite of the traditional working and middle classes due to its close proximity of the city. In 2006 a synthetic oval all weather course was laid to allow winter flat racing in all conditions.

The National Hunt course is 1m and 5 furlongs in length in a triangular shape. Two laps of this make up the 3 miles of the King George.

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