From becoming an owner to a day on the gallops: great gifts for racing devotees
Christmas is a wonderful time to be a racing fan.
The King George, Welsh Grand National, Challow Hurdle and Leopardstown Christmas festival offer a midwinter assault that makes time fly faster than a reindeer-towed sleigh between that second helping of Christmas pudding and the closing bumper of Cheltenham's most hungover card on New Year's Day.
It is the time before that can be complicated – with the unwrapping of socks seemingly more important to the rest of the family than some vital form study.
However, if you take to conveniently leaving this list of ideas open on your web browser they may just take the hint and get you something you really want this Christmas.
Here it is then, the Racing Post's guide to what to buy the horseracing fan in your family.
Gifts for the racing fan
This Christmas is going to be unlike any other due to the impact and restrictions of Covid-19 and by now that racing fan you know has been wearing their face covering for nine months, so why not get them a new one?
The Racing Post shop has some rather fetching RP-branded masks, the Injured Jockeys Fund offers several racing-themed designs, and Safety Silks allow you to display allegiance to your favourite horse by wearing the pattern of their silks on your face. What better way to enhance ante-post excitement than reminding yourself every time you step into a public space that the pattern on your face is connected to some juicy prices about a festival good thing?
£70 - £2,000
Fans can return to racecourses and after so long away why not get extra close to the action with a set of binoculars? Nothing says seasoned racegoer quite like bins and they come at a range of price points. The compact Steiner 2212 10x 26mm Safari UltraSharp Binocular, for example, comes in at £69 after a quick Google, while at the luxury end the Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 will set you back around £1,885-£2,000 depending where you shop.
There are plenty of binoculars at a range of price points on the internet, so do your research, but for those looking for an obvious starting point the Celestron Outland X 8x42 is widely reviewed as one of the best value for money sets out there.
Binocular-shaped hip flasks
It would be rude to mention binoculars without mentioning the binocular-shaped hip flask that shot to fame at Cheltenham on New Year's Day two years ago when a young racegoer was shown drinking from them.
10 out of 10 for effort on this! pic.twitter.com/LUq485Ia6Y— ITV Racing (@itvracing) January 1, 2019
Since that moment they have become a must-have accessory for every twenty-something racing fan, and can be purchased on Amazon for £53. Unfortunately the added publicity means racecourses are much more alert to their existence, but as a fun item to be enjoyed off course they are sure to delight the seasoned racing fan in your life.
A day on the Newmarket gallops
Newmarket is called the home of the thoroughbred for a reason and there's no better place for a true racing fan to spend a day than in the Suffolk town watching the stars of the Flat put through their paces.
The Virgin Experience includes a morning watching work on Warren Hill – which, it should be stated, you are perfectly within your rights to go and do yourself any morning you choose. However, the package also includes a stable visit, guided tour of the National Stud and a visit to the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art within Palace House.
A few pointers to make it all the more special. Most of the superstars have the winter off and don't return to Newmarket until February and heavy work until March, so it is worth waiting a few months. Wednesdays and Saturdays are the main days for fast work, although given the sheer volume of horses with different targets you will in all likelihood see certain horses in fast work any day of the week.
Become an owner for the year
£10 - £3,400,000
How would you fancy owning a share in a horse? It can be an expensive gift, what with top lot at the recent Tattersalls Book 1 yearling sale going for a casual £3.4 million, but racehorse ownership is a gift that can match every price point, with the Racehorse Lotto running a £10 a ticket raffle for the chance to own and name a filly to be trained by James Ferguson and ridden by Hayley Turner for the 2021 Flat season. 20 per cent of each ticket goes to Racing Welfare.
The Owners Group syndicate – whose Pentland Hills won the juvenile Grade 1 hurdles at Cheltenham and Aintree in 2019 – break horses into 3,000 shares for a one-off cost and currently have horses available from £28 (with Nicky Henderson) to £47 (with Julie Camacho), while you could be represented by the famous Middleham Park Racing colours with horses available from £400 to £2,800, and then there is outright ownership for those looking for a more expensive but bespoke experience.
Whether it is a beautiful framed photograph, a canvas or a painting, there is always scope to delight a racing fan with a sport-specific image and something that captures their favourite horse, day or moment will always work well.
Racing Post Photos is an excellent place to start with a vast array of stunning photographs, while you can also find great artwork at equestrianartuk.com where a percentage of sales is donated to Racing Welfare.
And then there are the paintings of Newcastle clerk of the course James Armstrong, who creates water colours of the silks of the winners for the Cheltenham Festival showpiece races as well as each winner at the festival.
Inkerman's Racing Welfare range
£66 - £176
The London-based luxury gifts boutique has teamed up with Racing Welfare to create a seven-item collection that ranges in price from a pair of tumblers for £66 to the Pimms jug, stirrer and tumbler set for £176. An ice bucket, champagne cooler and centrepiece bowl are also available featuring the Inkerman Racing Welfare design of a string of horses hacking through trees. What's more, 20 per cent of each purchase is donated to the charity.
And racing gifts for the non-racing fan
Of course, not everyone is a racing fan, so we also have some racing-themed ideas for those in your family who could not tell which end kicks from which end bites, let alone decipher the Welsh National.
Learn to really cook
Know an aspiring chef? Someone who loves nothing more than pretending they are secretly auditioning for Masterchef every time they fire up the hob? Then look no further than Newton Abbot, whose award-winning chefs Ben Kingdon and Gavin Castle are offering a range of classes (limited to three at a time) throughout 2021.
Whether it is the fish and seafood class, meat and poultry option or the baking day that most appeals, these six-and-a-half-hour masterclasses cover a wide range of skills, styles and dishes. The classes take place on course with all ingredients, equipment and lunch/refreshments provided – but they do take place at the Devon racecourse so keep that in mind if your intended recipient lives nearer John O'Groats than Lands End.
£40 - £200
You can never get them started too young, so brainwash your child into a love of racing by getting them their own rocking racehorse to ride at home.
£2 - £40
The Injured Jockeys Fund does wonderful work all year round supporting jockeys and sells a range of items to help fund their work, from door mats to oven gloves, mugs to portable phone chargers, scented candles to picnic hampers and everything in between. You can see the full range here.
And don't forget...
You can do your bit for the charity of your choice and spread some Christmas – and racing – cheer by getting some themed Christmas cards.
The Injured Jockeys Fund pack has always been a staple for racing folk, while this year caricaturist Darren Bird is donating ten per cent of the sales of his Christmas cards to Racing Welfare. The Sir Peter O'Sullevan Charitable Trust is another that can be supported in this way.
Watch live races through the Racing Post website. Log in to your bookmaker account via the bookmaker button at the top of the page and look on the racecards for eligible races. Click the red 'Watch live now' icon and they're off! Find out how here