The Ladbrokes Christmas Festival: What Should We Expect?

The National Hunt calendar is well underway and anybody who’s a jump racing fan will likely be looking forward to the Ladbrokes Christmas Festival almost as much as the big day itself.

Taking place on the weekend of the 26th and 27th of December, Kempton Park will be playing host to no less than a dozen top quality races, including the King George VI, the Desert Orchid Chase and the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle, all of which are available to look at odds for already on sports bookies Bovada.

We’ve got the lowdown on what to expect from the day, including the ticket types available, options for hospitality and which horses stand a good chance of being in the money in the most hotly anticipated races.

What Kind of Tickets Are Available?

Before anything else, you’re going to need to buy your ticket. You’d be well advised to buy your ticket plenty in advance, as they generally sell out before raceday. If you want a no-frills experience where you still get to see all the racing from the standard grandstand, then £20 is all you’ll need to pay.

Those that want a more premium experience though, have a lot of add-ons that they can choose from. Premier Seating is £50 per person and enables you to watch the racing from your own reserved seat with excellent views of the course. If you’d like entry to the Kauto Bar that boasts views of the weighing room and has its own betting facilities, then that’s £75. These all make for a very affordable day out, but if you want to push the boat out a little further then Kempton Park has some unparalleled hospitality options too.

A private box is the ultimate luxury, and you’ll need 12 people minimum to enjoy one. Prices are £369 per person, but include a balcony overlooking the winning post, as well as a delectable two course menu, complimentary drinks all day long and of course the box itself. This is a super luxury option for those who want nothing but the best on this special weekend of racing. It’s entirely up to you which option you take on your day. Whatever you spend, you’re guaranteed a great day of racing.

The King George VI Chase

The King George VI Chase is without a doubt the most anticipated race of the festival. It’s a Grade one race, run over a distance of three miles that is open to horses aged four or older.

There are eighteen obstacles to be jumped and the purse to be divided between the winners is £250,000. This makes it the richest race in the calendar, second only to the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Over the years there have been a couple of horses that have really taken to this race, with the great Desert Orchid winning it four times (earning himself a race named after him in the same meeting) and Kauto Star five times. Paul Nicholls, Kauto Star’s trainer is without a doubt the most successful trainer in the race, having won it twelve times, all of them in very recent years.

It therefore makes sense that Bravemansgame, a Nicholls trained horse, is fancied as the favorite to win the big race. From his six runs over fences, he’s won five of them and though he’s relatively lightly raced compared to some of the other entries, he has shown that he has what it takes in previous performances.

He has a classy way of moving, an economical jump and his victory in the Kauto Star Novice’s Chase last season showed that he runs well on a sharp right-handed track. The hiccup in his record at Aintree, where he was beaten 30 lengths and fourth of four is a worry for punters, but Nicholls always has horses rattling fit for this race and his win at Wetherby in late October supports this.

He’s a difficult horse to oppose, but if anyone was going to challenge him then it would be Hitman. This poses a big dilemma for stable jockey Harry Cobden, as Nicholls is trainer of both horses. Whilst Bravemansgame seems the obvious choice, Hitman is a year younger, still improving and Nicholls firmly believes that this step up in trip will suit him.

Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle

The only other grade one race of the meeting is the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle. This race is run over a distance of two miles and the winners share a pot of £130,000.

This year, there’s much debate by bookmakers over who the winner will be, but with entries yet unannounced, it’s best to look back at the form from previous years. Last year’s winner Epatante ran a brilliant race and had already won in 2019 prior to that, but with its entry into the Betfair Fighting Fifth hurdle this year we won’t be expecting it to repeat that feat. Nicky Henderson gets the title of the most successful trainer for this race, so looking out for his entries once confirmed could be a good place to put your money.