Aintree reveals Boxing Day race plans
Becher Chase Raceday – Aintree Racecourse: Walk In The Mill ridden by James Best leads the field home to win the Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase during Becher Chase Raceday at Aintree Racecourse, Merseyside. David Davies/PA Images/Ritzau Scanpix
Aintree is set to stage racing over Christmas from 2023, it has been confirmed by the Jockey Club.
The home of the Grand National will replace Huntingdon’s traditional December 26th meeting from next year, ensuring racing at Aintree for the first time on Boxing Day.
The Merseyside track has staged fixtures during the Christmas period previously, with the two-day ‘Yuletide meeting’ taking place earlier in December between 1953 and 1964, but this will be their first time featuring on Boxing Day.
December 26th is traditionally one of the busiest days of racing in the calendar across Britain and Ireland.
While Aintree will be unable to trump the likes of Kempton’s King George card or the opening day of action at Leopardstown for sheer quality, they will hope to attract quality to their card, which is set to be run on the Mildmay and hurdles courses initially.
The decision to replace Huntingdon – also a Jockey Club-owned course – comes after the Cambridgeshire track’s Christmas meeting has been abandoned four times in the last decade and twice in the last four years.
Major boost for Aintree
Revealing the move, Dickon White, the Jockey Club’s regional director for the north-west, said: “I’m delighted to confirm that there will now be nine days of racing scheduled at Aintree in 2023.
“The addition of a Boxing Day fixture is a major boost to the Jockey Club in the north-west as we were previously without any racing on what is one of the busiest days of the year.”
White went on to reveal that the move is intended to be a permanent one, with Aintree set to remain on the Boxing Day roster.
“With popular fixtures at nearby Haydock either side of Christmas, the Boxing Day action at Aintree is the perfect fit,” he added. “The whole team at Aintree are thrilled and look forward to ensuring that Aintree on Boxing Day becomes a permanent fixture in local racing fans’ calendars.”
Huntingdon happy to accommodate
Huntingdon’s Boxing Day meeting last year consisted of four Class 4 and three Class 5 races, but details of what the opening Aintree Boxing Day offering will look like are not yet confirmed, with an increase in quality seemingly very probable.
Huntingdon regularly saw crowds in excess of 5,000 for their December 26th meetings, though that dipped to 3,109 last year following the Covid pandemic.
Racecourse general manager James Wilcox said the move would help provide the best possible racing surface through the winter programme at Huntingdon as he hinted that recent abandonments had played their part.
“Our Boxing Day fixture is one which regularly succumbs to the weather and has been abandoned twice in the last four years,” Wilcox said.
“This transfer will allow us to consolidate the top-quality jump racing that takes place during the core season and allow our racing surface to be at its very best for the fixtures in the winter period for customers to enjoy.”