In the Great British racing schedule, the 32Red King George VI Chase is the year-ending event to watch. And for one jockey in particular, it could cap off a very merry Christmas
The 32Red King George VI Chase, Boxing Day, 1pm, ITV/HD (CH 103/113)
You know the drill. Christmas Day has officially wrapped and the mission to consume every last leftover begins, just as soon as you emerge from that regrettable cheese and cracker-induced coma (always one too many, always!).
If only it were the same for professional jockey Daryl Jacob. As one of a host of riders competing in Boxing Day’s traditional event, the 32Red King George VI Chase, the Irishman lives an alternative festive lifestyle of small plates, early nights and a chance to make sporting history.
After riding Bristol De Mai to victory at Haydock’s Betfair Chase last month, Jacob is on course to complete a victorious Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown – an elite feat achieved only once before, by Ruby Walsh riding the invincible Kauto Star in 2007.
If he should win at Kempton Park, a third Grade 1 victory in March’s Cheltenham Gold Cup will bag the 35-year-old a share of the whopping £1m bonus prize on offer and a place in British racing folklore.
Read on to find out what a jockey’s Christmas looks like, and why Jacob has high hopes of claiming the crown of King George.
Christmas is a day of two halves
“My two young children are really into Christmas now. Part of the day is about relaxing with the family, while the other part is zoning in on the race. There has to be some give and take for both.”
Small stomachs mean small portions
“Jockeys can only eat so much before we’re full, so I make sure I’ve got some goodness in a bit of turkey and veg for my Christmas lunch. I’m quite a big jockey, so I have to watch my weight all the time.”
Eyes aren’t on the mince pies
“Naturally, there’s always a temptation to dip in. I know what my body can and should take, so it’s a matter of training the mind. We don’t expect to see any mince pies at the course, either. They’re strictly for hospitality!”
It never really stops
“Christmas time is just another week in the calendar, but there’s an added element of excitement because the calibre of horses and races increases. During winter we race seven days a week. One day just rolls into the next.”
Cash isn’t king
“The bonus isn’t a factor for me. Jockeys get into racing because they love riding race horses. It’s about the love of the sport – the money is never part of your criteria before a race.”
The best horse wins
“Bristol De Mai was magnificent at Haydock. It was the best I’ve seen of him and if we keep him in the same shape, he’s got a good chance. The King George VI is a brutal gallop over big jumps on soft ground. It takes a good horse to triumph and, nine times out of ten, the best horse wins.”
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The 32Red King George VI Chase takes place at Kempton on Boxing Day. For more info on fixtures over the festive period, visit: greatbritishracing.com/fixtures