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Festive Period: Runners & Riders

Christmas is a time like no other for racing fans, with a flurry of major contests taking place immediately after Christmas Day. 

The King George VI Chase and Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park join the four-day Leopardstown Christmas Festival in providing multiple Grade 1 races, while there is also the Welsh Grand National to look forward to at Chepstow.

Below is our guide to the major races over the festive season. 

Tuesday 26th December

Christmas Hurdle - Kempton 1.55

Nicky Henderson's Constitution Hill will be the star attraction in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton with his perfect record on the line. He's currently 2/5 for more Champion Hurdle glory at Cheltenham in March and is set to begin his season by defending this title, where he's a strong 1/11 chance.

His opponents include 8/1 Rubaud for Paul Nicholls, winner of his last four starts - including the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton last month. 

King George VI Chase - Kempton 2.30

The big one on Boxing Day – Kempton's King George – will see 9/4 Bravemansgame putting his crown on the line. He won in fine style last year but has been turned over in both starts this season and now faces a real battle if he's to give Paul Nicholls a 14th win in this race.

Irish King George winners have been few and far between, but with the Willie Mullins-trained Allaho at 2/1, the raiding party is strong alongside Hewick at 11/1 for Shark Hanlon.

The Real Whacker is the only horse to beat the talented Gerri Colombe over fences and is 10/1 here for Patrick Neville. 

Shishkin relished three miles at Aintree in the spring but refused to race on his comeback at Ascot last month. The Henderson star is an intriguing contender and trades at 7/2, while former winner Frodon completes the line-up for Team Nicholls with Bryony Frost on board at 33/1.

Formby Novices' Hurdle - Aintree 1.05

The artist formerly known as the Tolworth Novices' Hurdle has a new home and a new date for 2023! 

The Formby Novices' Hurdle is the centrepiece on the card at Aintree as the famous Merseyside track joins in the Boxing Day action for the first time.

Jango Baie is 4/1 after impressing with a good attitude in last month's hurdling bow success at Ascot for the Henderson team. 

Tellherthename is 4/1 for Ben Pauling, with 3/1 Farren Glory an Irish raider of note for Gordon Elliott. 

Racing Post Novice Chase - Leopardstown 2.20

Willie Mullins unleashes 4/11 Facile Vega in this Grade 1 contest after he impressed in a winning bow over fences last month at Navan.

He didn't do a lot in that race but was professional when Townend called for his winning effort and Mullins could also call on the likes of Blood Destiny, Mister Policeman or Gaelic Warrior. 

Gordon Elliott, meanwhile, has 9/2 Found A Fifty as the main danger after he was second in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse recently, while 10/1 My Mate Mozzie and 12/1 veteran Sharjah complete the quartet.

Wednesday 27th December

Future Champions Novice Hurdle - Leopardstown 1.45

There is more Grade 1 action on day two at Leopardstown and Down Memory Lane is the market leader at 11/8 for Gordon Elliott after scoring on his hurdles bow at Down Royal in November.

Impressive Thurles maiden winner Daddy Long Legs – a son of Almanzor – is trading at 2/1 for Team Mullins in the famous Al Boum Photo silks of the Donnelly's.

Ireland's two powerhouse trainers dominate the list of possible entries for this two mile test.

Welsh Grand National - Chepstow 2.10

It wouldn't be Christmas without the Welsh National dominating some of the headlines.

The Chepstow showpiece is part of the second day of festive action and Super Survivor is a 9/2 chance for trainer Jamie Snowden as Wales bids to make it four wins in five years in their most treasured contest, while former winner Iwilldoit is 7/1 for Sam Thomas in the Monmouthshire marathon.

Finale Juvenile Hurdle - Chepstow 2.10

Also on the card at Chepstow on Wednesday will be the Grade 2 Finale Juvenile Hurdle, a race that has been won by stars like Bristol De Mai and Defi Du Seuil in the last decade. 

Smart Flat performer Burdett Road made the perfect start over hurdles last month with wins at Huntingdon and Cheltenham and is 2/5 here as he looks to further embellish his Triumph Hurdle claims for later in the season. 

Wayward Lad Novices' Chase - Kempton 1.55

Day two at Kempton Park on Wednesday includes the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices' Chase and punters are certain to be playing close attention to a race whose recent winners include future stars such as Sprinter Sacre, Dodging Bullets, Altior, Cyrname, Shishkin and Edwardstone. 

Desert Orchid Handicap Chase - Kempton 2.30

A pot of £100,000 is on offer the Grade 2 handicap named in honour of perhaps Kempton's most famous son, Desert Orchid.

Thursday 28th December

Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle - Leopardstown 1.50

Grade 1 fare over three miles from Leopardstown comes via the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle and it is set to be headlined by Irish Point at 6/4 for Gordon Elliott. He made a winning return at Down Royal last month and could relish this step up in distance.

Last year's winner Home By The Lee is a quirky sort, but Joseph O'Brien's charge is likely to put up a stern defence of the crown at 6/4, while the likes of Monkfish at 9/2 and Asterion Forlonge at 10/1 are other possible winners.

Savills Chase - Leopardstown 2.25

It's a huge afternoon at the Foxrock venue on Thursday and Gold Cup kingpin Galopin Des Champs is 6/4 to regain the winning thread in the Savills Chase for Willie Mullins. His last two starts have resulted in defeats to Fastorslow and he is 5/2 to hold sway again for trainer Martin Brassil.

Envoi Allen, narrowly beaten last month at Down Royal in Grade 1 company, is 10/1 while former Irish Gold Cup winner Conflated is 12/1 to turn around form from that meeting up north. A Plus Tard, a 16/1 chance, is another possible for Henry de Bromhead. 

Gordon Elliott elected to send Down Royal's Champion Chase winner Gerri Colombe here instead of Kempton and he's 5/2 to land another top-level success in what promises to be his biggest test to date. 

Faugheen Novices' Chase - Limerick 2.05

Gaelic Warrior looked a very exciting chaser in the making in his tearaway success at Punchestown last month and the Willie Mullins inmate will be fancied to add this Grade 1 to his CV if he competes in the race. He is 4/9 to oblige in the famous Rich Ricci silks. 

Friday 29th December

Matheson Hurdle - Leopardstown 2.20

State Man is the best two mile hurdler in Ireland and is rated a 1/3 chance to land the Matheson Hurdle for champion trainer Willie Mullins.

He so far hasn't been able to match Constitution Hill, but perhaps fellow Closutton inmate Impaire Et Passe - a 7/2 chance in this race - could mark himself down as a challenger to the Seven Barrows superstar.

Saturday 30th December

Challow Novices' Hurdle - Newbury 3.00

The final Grade 1 race of the calendar year in Britain is the Challow Novices' Hurdle. This is a race champion trainer Paul Nicholls has won a record five times, including with Bravemansgame, Stage Star and Hermes Allen in the last three renewals.

The Ditcheat supremo could be the man to watch again.

Any odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and are subject to fluctuation.

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