Jumps races to look forward to in December

The jumps racing season is back underway, with the three-day November Meeting at Cheltenham opening the floodgates to another thrilling six months of action — culminating with the Festival and the Grand National in March and April respectively.

Before we get to those highlights of the National Hunt calendar, however, there is plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks and months. December is a time of particular interest for fans of the sport, with several big race days in which the stars can make their seasonal reappearances and whet the appetite of punters.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some the dates you need for your diary. Read on to find out more!

December 3: Becher Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) – Aintree

A Premier Handicap, which replaced Grade 3 contests this season, the Becher Handicap Chase is open to horses six years or older and is raced over the Grand National fences at Aintree. There’s £84,195 up for grabs for the winner of the three miles and two furlongs races, with the Willie Mullins-trained Captain Kangaroo and Gesskille of Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero vying for favouritism in the horse racing betting. Two previous winners, Amberleigh House and Silver Birch, have gone on to win the National itself.

December 3: Tingle Creek Chase (Grade 1) – Sandown

The bigger race on December 3 arguably comes from Sandown, however, as the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase takes place down in Surrey. Open to horses four years or older, the top-class race is contested over one mile and seven furlongs, with 13 fences to be jumped along the way.

The Tingle Creek has a fine roll of honours, with Altior, Politologue, Kauto Star and Moscow Flyer all featuring on the list of winners since the turn of the millennium. This year’s entries are looking exciting at the time of writing — with defending champion Greaneteen, Shishkin, Arkle winner Edwardstone and Ferny Hollow all featuring.

December 4: Winter Festival – Fairyhouse

Focusing on a meeting this time, day two of the Winter Festival at Fairyhouse in Ireland is shaping up to be a fantastic card — with three Grade 1 contests in a row on the action-packed Sunday afternoon. First up is the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, where Willie Mullins will be on the hunt for a 10th victory from one of his many entries. But Gordon Elliott also has a fair share of entries.

Then it’s on to the Drinmore Novice Chase, where the brilliant Banbridge will be looking to extend his record over fences to three from three for the season after wins for Joseph O’Brien at Gowran Park and Cheltenham already this season. Finally, it’s the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle — the feature and the traditional starting point to the campaign for the unbeaten Honeysuckle. The horse racing tips will be backing the Henry de Bromhead-trained horse to make it 17 wins on the trot.

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December 11: Punchestown Steeplechase (Grade 1) – Punchestown

Sticking with Ireland, the Grade 1 Punchestown Steeplechase takes place the following Sunday. Open to horses five and over and raced over two miles, four furlongs and 14 fences, Mullins has won this race seven times in the last decade — including all of the last four renewals. Blue Lord, Ferny Hollow, Stattler and Galopin Des Champs are just some of his potential runners as he seeks a ninth win in the race.

December 26: King George VI Chase (Grade 1) – Kempton

Moving swiftly on to Boxing Day, the King George VI Chase is a real fan favourite on the jumps racing calendar — and arguably second only to the Cheltenham Gold Cup in terms of prestige. The top-group race is open to horses four years or older and is a gruelling three miles and 18 fences, while there’s a top prize of a huge £142,375.

Several horses, including Kicking King, Kauto Star and Long Run, have gone on to win the Gold Cup — and this year’s race is littered with big names, like three-time Graded winner Bravemansgame, two-time Ryanair Chase champion Allaho, 2020 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner Envoi Allen and 2022 Browns Advisory Novices’ Chase champion L’Homme Presse all in contention.

The Welsh Grand National is due to take place at Chepstow on December 27. Iwilldoit is the current favourite for the three-mile, six-and-a-half-furlong race at 12/1.

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