Timeform look at the highlights of Saturday's Boxing Day card in the UK.
It is commonly believed that 'Boxing Day' originated in the mid-nineteenth century and is so called because the boxes placed in churches where parishioners deposited coins for the poor were opened, and the contents distributed, on December 26th.
In more recent times the poor punter has benefited from the exploits on Boxing Day of Desert Orchid (1986, 88, 89, 90) and Kauto Star (2006, 07, 08) in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, and many will be hoping that the latter will once again pay for the Christmas festivities this year. But where else can winners be found?
During the past decade it has paid to keep trainer Sue Smith on side, particularly at Wetherby, where she has sent out eight Boxing Day winners. Last year her followers were handsomely rewarded by Final Veto's success at 25/1 and it is worth keeping an eye out for a similar Christmas cracker this time around. The West Yorkshire handler's winners aren't just confined to Wetherby, though. In 2003 she sent out Celioso to claim the highlight of Market Rasen's Christmas card, the Lincolnshire National.
The Lincolnshire National is one race that goes rather unnoticed amongst the festivities but the Craig Roberts-trained Victory Gunner is a standing dish in the contest and made the marathon event his own from 2005-2007. The Old Vic-gelding seems to have badly lost his form this season but it would be no surprise to see him line up again for the fifth consecutive year.
Kempton Park is the undoubted highlight of the day, however, with the top horses from Ireland and England clashing in the Christmas Hurdle and King George VI Chase, but there are winners to be had in the other races on the card.
Nicky Henderson has seen his horses finish first past the post on ten occasions there in the past nine Boxing Days, including a particularly memorable treble in 2000 which featured a runaway success for Bacchanal in the Feltham Chase and Fondmort's victory in a novice hurdle on his first British start. In recent years Henderson's success has been confined to handicaps with Oedipe, Boomshakalaka and Royaleety amongst his winners.
Boxing Day 2009, like many before it, looks set to be a fascinating day's racing, the only potential stumbling block being the weather. In 2001 racing was decimated by frost and only two of the nine scheduled meetings got the go ahead. The current cold snap must cast doubt over the prospects of racing again this year, although at the time of writing Kempton are optimistic their card will go ahead as planned.
To see the markets and to get a free bet on any of the Boxing Day meetings, follow this link to Betfair now.