Gear up for a bumper festive period of top-class horse racing as Channel 4 screens live coverage of the King George VI Chase, Welsh Grand National and Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day meeting.
The first of four presents on offer from the Channel 4 Racing team over the festive season will be unwrapped on Boxing Day with the traditional Christmas cracker that is the King George VI Chase, part of a great day of jump racing at Kempton Park.
Worth £200,000, this prestigious race has been won four times by the great Desert Orchid and five times by the magnificent Kauto Star, with the latter’s trainer Paul Nicholls having won it in 2013 with Silviniaco Conti, who will be back to defend his crown in what promises to be one of the most wide-open renewals of the race in many years.
Silviniaco Conti faces nine rivals in the defence of his King George crown, including Cue Card and Al Ferof, who he beat to the prize 12 months ago and last year’s top three are all set to run again at Kempton this year.
The new kid on the block is Willie Mullins’ Champagne Fever, who bids to land the prize for the Irish Champion Trainer for the first time since Florida Pearl in 2001, while Philip Hobbs is double-handed with Menorah and Wishfull Thinking, with Barry Geraghty taking the reins on the latter.
Dynaste takes his chance for David Pipe, Johns Spirit goes for Jonjo O’Neill and Double Ross, to be ridden by Ryan Hatch, will line up for Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Quite simply the pinnacle day in the Kempton Park calendar and one of Channel 4’s festive racing highlights, the Boxing Day meeting features three Group 1 races, headlined by the flagship contest – King George VI Chase – a seasonal target for many outstanding chasers, plus there’s the Christmas Hurdle, which has gone to the Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson combination for the last four years.
Kempton’s big day is followed barely 24 hours later by the biggest and most prestigious horse race in Wales as attention turns to Chepstow for Welsh Grand National on Saturday, December 27.
With a lucrative £100,000 purse, the race attracts some of the best jump horses in training with previous winners including Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised and Aintree Grand National winners Earth Summit, Silver Birch and Bindaree.
Due to a postponement of the Welsh National in 2012, last year saw two winners of the race in the same calendar year, with Monbeg Dude for Michael Scudamore in January and Richard Lee’s Mountainous, owned by his patriotic Welsh owners Dai Walters and James Potter, winning in December and both top stayers should be back to try and repeat their success this year.
Then its onto Cheltenham as Channel 4 Racing brings in the New Year in style with four high quality races from the home of jumping, plus two top contests from Musselburgh in Scotland.
The busy festive period is rounded off in Esher on Saturday, January 3, with Sandown Park’s first meeting of 2015, feature on another top card which is headlined by the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle, which has been won by many promising novices, including three out of the last four from Nicky Henderson’s yard.
Enjoy all the finest racing action on offer this Christmas and New Year, weather permitting, with Channel 4 Racing’s extensive coverage from seven different racecourses across the UK.
Clare Balding anchors Channel 4’s live coverage alongside Nick Luck for the five races from Kempton Park and Wetherby on Boxing Day, featuring the King George VI Chase at 3.10pm, with other races starting at 1.25, 2.00 and 2.35 at Kempton, plus the 1.40 at Wetherby.
The Kempton meeting will be Balding’s last Channel 4 Racing assignment until the Cheltenham Festival, following her decision to scale back on her horse racing role with the broadcaster from 2015 onwards.
Commentary and analysis from Kempton comes from Simon Holt, Jim McGrath and Mick Fitzgerald, with the latest betting as ever coming from Tanya Stevenson.
On Welsh Grand National Day, Rishi Persad presents the action at Chepstow, featuring the main event at 2.35, along with three further races from the course at 1.25, 1.55 and 3.10, while Nick Luck introduces three other races from Kempton Park at 1.40, 2.15 and 2.40.
Richard Hoiles leads the commentary team in Wales, with Simon Holt at Kempton, while expert analysis comes throughout this bumper afternoon’s racing from Jim McGrath, Graham Cunningham and Mick Fitzgerald.
On New Year’s Day, Nick Luck is back in the main hotseat to host all the action from Cheltenham’s New Year meeting, featuring four live races at Prestbury Park, plus two live races from Musselburgh, with reports from Mick Fitzgerald and Gina Bryce, while commentary and analysis comes Simon Holt, Jim McGrath, Graham Cunningham and Tanya Stevenson.
Alongside the live racing on New Year’s Day, the Channel 4 team will also look forward to the racing year ahead with extensive previews of the all the major meetings in 2015.
In addition to live racing, Channel 4 will screen three editions of The Morning Line over the festive period, including a special programme on the morning of King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
Also, the Channel 4 Racing team will welcome a new expert to its team over the festive season with top jockey Richard Johnson, who is serving a 12-day ban from racing, joining the commentary line-up at Chepstow for the Coral Welsh Grand National and at Cheltenham for the New Year’s Day fixture.
Johnson said: “It’s very nice be asked to work with the Channel 4 Racing team and it will be an excellent experience. Factoring in Christmas, my ban extends to just over a fortnight so it was a great opportunity to keep busy – I’ve also got to pay for Christmas somehow!”
Sophie Veats, Channel 4’s Morning Line producer, added: “We’re delighted that Richard will be joining the Morning Line and the afternoon team. Having an active jockey involved in race analysis provides an added dimension to our coverage.”
Channel 4’s online offering via channel4.com/racing will complement viewers’ enjoyment of the action over the festive period with full online and social media support also available via Twitter and Facebook.
Friday 26th December The Morning Line Preview: 7.55am-9.00am Channel 4 Channel 4 Racing: Kempton Park & Wetherby LIVE: 1.15pm-3.50pm Channel 4 Race Card 1:25 Kempton – WH Download The App Novices Limited Handicap Chase
1:45 Wetherby – William Hill Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase 2:00 Kempton – Kauto Star Novices’ Chase
2:35 Kempton – williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle 3:10 Kempton – William Hill King George VI Chase
Saturday 27th December The Morning Line Preview: 8.00am-9.00am Channel 4 Channel 4 Racing: Chepstow & Kempton Park LIVE: 1.10pm-3.35pm Channel 4 Race Card 1:25 Chepstow – Coral Proud Supporters Of Racing Handicap Hurdle
1:40 Kempton – williamhill.com Desert Orchid Chase
1:55 Chepstow – coral.co.uk Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle
2:15 Kempton – William Hill Bet On The Move Handicap Chase 2:35 Chepstow – Coral Welsh Grand National 2:50 Kempton – William Hill Download The App Mares’ Handicap Hurdle 3:10 Chepstow – coral.co.uk Best Price Guaranteed Handicap Chase
Thursday 1st January Channel 4 Racing: Cheltenham & Musselburgh LIVE: 1.00pm-3.30pm Channel 4 Race Card 1:20 Cheltenham – BetBright Novices´ Chase
1:35 Musselburgh – totequadpot Scottish Premier Chase Handicap
1:55 Cheltenham – BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase
2:10 Musselburgh – totepool Hogmaneigh Hurdle Handicap 2:30 Cheltenham – BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle 3:05 Cheltenham – Dornan Engineering Hurdle
Saturday 3rd January The Morning Line Preview: 7.55am-8.55am Channel 4 Channel 4 Racing: Sandown & Wincanton LIVE: 1.30pm-4.00pm Channel 4 Race Card 1:50 Sandown – 32Red Casino Handicap Chase
2:05 Wincanton – Bathwick Tyres Yeovil Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase
2:25 Sandown – 32Red Tolworth Hurdle
2:40 Wincanton – Bathwick Tyres Poole Handicap Hurdle 3:00 Sandown – 32Red Handicap Hurdle 3:15 Wincanton – Bathwick Tyres Handicap Chase 3:35 Sandown – 32Red.com Handicap Chase