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Stateside, there is one main sporting Christmas tradition. A stacked NFL card, and this year is no different. The Miami Dolphins host the Dallas Cowboys on Christmas Eve & the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens on Christmas Day. But on that side of the pond, there is no racing scheduled on Christmas Day aside from Puerto Rico.
On the other side of the pond, however, things are very different (though not on Christmas Day itself). Boxing Day – or December 26th to us and you – is chocked full of sport. Arguably the biggest day on the racing calendar, the racetracks host plenty of action. Here are Britain’s biggest and best sporting events over the festive period.
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On Boxing Day, all eyes are on Kempton for its annual Christmas Festival. The King George VI Chase steals the show. The race has been marked on the calendar each and every year since 1937. The Grade One extravaganza is what you could call the crème de la crème of British horse racing. It attracts the most elite horses and jockeys from far and wide.
Last year, the magnificent Bravemansgame, under the tutelage of the masterful Paul Nicholls, romped to a stunning victory, claiming £250,000 in the process. Now, as the spotlight falls on this year’s contenders, the reigning champion has been anointed by horse racing odds providers as a short-priced +200 favorite. If he does retain his crown, he will still be two victories shy of Desert Orchid, which won the race four times throughout the ’80s.
He has a race named after him taking place at the festival, the Desert Orchid Chase, and French horse Editeur Du Gite stormed home last year, taking the crown from beloved Shishkin in the process. Both will be competing this year with £60,000 on the line. The nine-year-old will be in action again this Christmas and it will be interesting to see if he has any gas left in the tank now he is approaching the latter stages of his career.
Finally, we come to the Christmas Hurdle by Kempton, the jewel in the crown of the entire festival thanks to its huge Cheltenham Festival implications four months down the line. Throughout the years, some powerhouses have etched their name onto the roll of honor including the likes of Constitution Hill and Epatante, both of whom not only triumphed here but also went on to dominate the biggest event in racing the following spring.
The PDC World Darts Championship has become a staple in the British festive sporting schedule. A raucous crowd at Alexandra Palace has seen the tournament go international, rather than solely being consumed in Old Blighty. In fact, last year, respected combat sports journalist Ariel Helwani caught the bug, mesmerized by Michael Smith and Michael van Gerwen’s astonishing performances in the final. In fact, he was so impressed that he bought a dart board for his show, the MMA Hour, and regularly plays a leg of darts against his guests.
The action got underway on December 15th and it will culminate with the final on January 3rd, crowning the first world champion in any sport of 2024. There have already been some heavyweight contests such as Gary Anderson’s redemption-earning 3-0 victory over Australian wizard Simon Whitlock. The aforementioned Smith is the reigning champion, proving that the third time is indeed the charm, winning in his third final after losing the previous two. He’s a +400 second favorite, with former champ and the man he beat last year Mighty Michael van Gerwen the +350 favorite.
No mention of the British sporting calendar would be complete without their beloved Premier League. Soccer is like religion in the UK and Boxing Day is the biggest day of the year by some distance. This year, there is a stacked card once more, and each side is out to further their respective ambitions.
After being pipped to the title by Manchester City last season, Arsenal are the current league leaders. They face West Ham United. Man City will travel to Liverpool to face Everton at Goodison Park.
Newcastle United will host Nottingham Forest at St. James’ Park. They will be out to secure victory and strengthen hopes of a second consecutive top-four finish. The visitors will simply be happy to avoid relegation.
Elsewhere, struggling Manchester United battle high flying Aston Villa at Old Trafford while Chelsea host Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.
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