A Sporting Winter Warmer
There’s something about winter time that brings out the sports fan in us all. After a while, you just need an excuse to spend some time outdoors. Whether it’s all the football that takes place over Boxing Day and New Year or the plethora of horse racing that is on offer, it’s impossible to avoid the pull to take in some of the action and maybe even to take a punt. It’s traditional, after all.
Doncaster racecourse is kicking off the festive season earlier than most with a brand new meeting this weekend. The Christmas National Hunt meeting takes place on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th December with a full card of seven races on each day. If you’ve got the shopping sorted and all the tinsel on the tree, why not get some fresh air before we all hunker down for the holidays?
If you’ve not experienced the thrill of a day at the races, it’s well worth taking a look at. There is something really spectacular about seeing the horses in the flesh to which TV just doesn’t do justice. And of course, racing crowds are famously fun and friendly. It’s like a party with a sporting interest on the side.
You certainly can’t accuse the good folk at Doncaster of not trying. Not only are they kicking off Christmas early with this meeting, they’re also looking to appeal to the Ebenezer Scrooge brigade. They have declared a ‘Sprout Free Zone’ on 29th December when they will host their New Year Raceday (they do seem to be quite relaxed when it comes to their dates!) “Tired of Tinsel?”, they ask, “Sick of Santa?”. They are offering a happily tipsy combination of festive cheer and a break from sprouts and other festive favourites, allowing race goers to – as they say – enjoy a break from Christmas clichés.
For more serious punters, Doncaster’s events will represent no more than a wintry warm up to the big meetings in the spring. We all know about the national treasure that is the Grand National, but for serious punters the high point in the racing calendar is the Cheltenham Festival which takes place between 10th and 13th March. Everything that happens before then is really just an appetiser.
Punters from all over the country and thousands more from Ireland will make the trek to Gloucestershire for one of the most spectacular sporting celebrations anywhere. Crowds regularly exceed 100,000 and the party that ensues has to be seen to be believed. The fact that the meeting takes place over St Patrick’s Day only adds to the sense of occasion. If you think Doncaster in December is fun, what they call ‘the greatest show on turf’ will blow your mind.
The spectacle, though, is only half the story. Enjoying a bet is also very much part of the picture. There are already plenty of Cheltenham tips doing the rounds and given that as much as £250 million changed hands in bets at last year’s meeting you could be forgiven for feeling that if you don’t get in on the act this time you’re going to be missing out.
Things won’t be quite that spectacular in Donny over the Christmas period, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to enjoy at least a taste of what the springtime has to offer. What’s more, you won’t have to leave Yorkshire. And if you’re not inclined to join in with all the yuletide overkill, it’s a fair bet that you will at least be able to find some kindred spirits on the 29th. We’ll see you there!