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Boxing Day at the Races: The King George

Horse racing is known as the "sport of kings" - and on Boxing Day, one of the most famous royal races on the annual calendar, the King George VI Chase, will be taking place.

Eighty-one years after the event’s debut, the Grade 1 National Hunt race will again be run at Kempton Park Racecourse over three miles. It is aimed at horses aged four years and older.

Horse Racing

© Mr Flibble /  Adobe Stock


Boxing Day tradition

Horse racing is a Boxing Day tradition that has become an integral part of the British way of life. The meetings are not only about the horse racing - they are a chance to enjoy a get-together with family and friends, meeting and socialising, maybe placing a few bets and having a drink.

Racecourses across Britain, including the rural ones which may not normally attract as many punters, will be crammed with thousands of people. Statistics show that the average crowd at the racetrack can be boosted by four-times its normal size at the Boxing Day races.

The tradition began because 26th December is the feast day of the patron saint of horses, St Stephen – thus the link with horse racing.


King George

King George VI, who was monarch from 1936 until 1952, was a horse racing fan, like many of the royal family. The King George VI Chase, launched in honour of the new British king, was run for the first time in February 1937. The first race was won by Southern Hero.

It was planned as an annual event but was run only twice before the Second World War intervened. During the war, Kempton Park racetrack was used as a prisoner-of-war camp. After the war ended in 1945, Kempton Park reopened, but the King George Chase didn't return until 1947 when it had a new date, Boxing Day.

It has been run annually on Boxing Day ever since and has become England's second most prestigious chase, with only the Cheltenham Gold Cup surpassing its fame and prestige. Famous horses who have won The King George in the past include four-times winner Desert Orchid and five-times winner Kauto Star.


Royal connection

The royal family are traditionally enthusiasts of Boxing Day racing and the royal links to the King George VI Chase have continued over the years.

As one of the main events at the Boxing Day meeting at Kempton Park, the Queen Mother Champion Chase honours the ‘Smiling Duchess’. The Queen Mother was a massive racing fan who owned many racehorses and was often a visitor to Kempton Park. The racecourse even has a Royal Box, so that royal spectators can watch the races in comfort.

Kempton Park's first race meeting was held on 18th July 1878 and the royal box was built in six days in 1889 when the Prince of Wales announced he was visiting the racetrack.

This year's King George Chase will see the defending champion, Might Bite, returning to contest his title as he looks for a famous second win. Other competitors will include Thistlecrack, the 2016 champion, and Waiting Patiently.

Might Bite is currently the bookies' favourite, with Waiting Patiently second favourite, although a lot can change between now and Boxing Day.

Kempton Park is one of the UK's most prestigious and historic racecourses, with new grandstands completed in 1997 and an all-weather floodlit course built between 2005 and 2006. It has been open for racing continually since 1878, apart from during the two world wars.

Coruba is a leading manufacturer of rubber safety matting and other rubber products. We supply high-quality Black Crumb rubber matting that is suitable for horse boxes and stables. Give us a call on +44(0)1702 560194 for more details.

The Coruba team would like to wish each and everyone of you, a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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