Christmas for racing fans means a main course of the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, followed by all the trimmings of the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow, plus a sumptuous four-day feast at Leopardstown on the side.
But like everyone else, we enjoy giving and receiving cards and presents, so let’s dig deep into Santa’s sack to find out what’s on offer for the 2016 festive season.
As far as cards go, it’s unwise to look further than the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF), particularly in the wake of the terrible injury sustained by Freddy Tylicki at Kempton in October, which left him paralysed from the waist down. The accident illuminated the crucial work of the IJF, helping jockeys whose careers are cut short, and the sale of its popular Christmas cards is one of its main sources of fundraising. This year’s cards, selling for £7.50 per pack of ten, feature racing-themed paintings, ‘Winter Winner’ and ‘Deep And Crisp And Even’.
As well as cards, the IJF sells all kinds of festive items, ranging from wrapping paper and 2017 calendars and diaries to Christmas puddings and baubles. Check out its website.
Calendars and diaries, for those still resisting the digital age, are on the Christmas lists of various racing organisations, most notably The Racegoers Club, which also sells potential gifts such as cufflinks, hip-flasks, ties, silk scarves and picture frames, and the ‘Racing Post’.
The ‘Post’ boasts a host of Yuletide goodies for you to peruse, including Christmas jumpers, priced £19.99, as part of a charity fundraising drive for injured jockeys. Other gift ideas in its website shop include Frankel and Sprinter Sacre badges and Arkle and Denman cufflinks. Or perhaps a subscription to the excellent Raceform Interactive formbook (£94 for the next three months of Jumps action) might tickle your fancy.
As usual, a veritable cornucopia of racing books are up for grabs this Christmas -- all via either the ‘Racing Post’ shop or Amazon. Here’s a sample of some of the best:
AINTREE: THE HISTORY OF THE RACECOURSE -- a lavish, detailed and, some might say, definitive account of the home of the Grand National by respected historian John Pinfold. Its price is steep at £30 but, believe you me, it is worth every penny.
HOW’S YOUR DAD? -- a richly acclaimed tale of how Mick Channon Jnr has lived in the shadow of his famous trainer and ex-England footballer father. Touching and humorous in equal measure.
RACING THROUGH LIFE: A JOCKEY’S TALE -- Jumps-jockey-turned-racecourse-manager Sam Morshead takes us back through his colourful racing career, including to the days when jiggery-pokery in the saddle was far more rife than it is now. Revealing.
COOLMORE STUD: IRELAND’S GREATEST SPORTING SUCCESS STORY -- author Alan Conway tells the story of how a small breeding farm in a corner of Tipperary grew into a global operation that yielded some of the greatest racehorses of all time, thanks to legends such as Vincent O’Brien and John Magnier.
SPRINTER SACRE: THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM -- a chronological compilation of ‘Racing Post’ stories and photographs that chart the remarkable fairytale career of Nicky Henderson’s superstar chaser.
MR DARLEY’S ARABIAN -- an absorbing history of the Turf by racing journalist Chris McGrath, traced through the Darley Arabian stallion line that now dominates the pedigrees of the modern-day thoroughbred.
RACING POST ANNUAL 2017 -- attractively-produced magazine-type annual packed with items that reflect on the great horses and achievements of 2016 and look ahead to the coming year. At just £12.99 for 210 pages, you cannot balk at its value for money.
THE ST LEGER: A HISTORY OF THE WORLD’S FIRST CLASSIC HORSERACE -- on the back of Michael Church’s wonderful histories of The Derby (updated this year) and The Oaks comes Tony Barber’s magnificent tribute to Doncaster’s flagship race. It might cost £75, but the 528-page tome is a precious collector’s item.
If none of the above whets your appetite, how about one last original gift idea for anyone who likes nothing more than getting out and about exploring the variety of racecourses and racing stables across the land?
The Racegoers Club has launched its 2017 membership package, which offers more benefits than ever, including free racedays, admission discounts of up to £6 at hundreds of meetings throughout the year, behind-the-scenes stable visits, a quarterly magazine and even the chance to be part of owners’ syndicates with horses in training by the likes of Richard Fahey, Clive Cox, Malcolm Jefferson and Philip Hobbs.
Membership of The Racegoers Club helps broaden the interests and knowledge of racing enthusiasts while, at the same time, opening up avenues for lots of social fun. Private facilities are available for members at many meetings, including the Cheltenham Festival and Glorious Goodwood
Individual membership is £35 per year and joint membership £55 (for two people living at the same address). Find out more about the club by visiting www.racegoersclub.co.uk.