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Behind-the-scenes at Nicky Henderson’s yard on Christmas Day

The Christmas period is one of the busiest times for the racing industry with Boxing Day being a highlight on the National Hunt calendar, so racing yards have to operate as usual on Christmas Day. We went behind the scenes at top trainer Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard to find out how they enjoy the festivities while working the horses.

“Christmas Day is very similar to a normal day for us, but there is a staff rota whereby half of the staff work Christmas Day and the other half work New Years Day,” says Nicky’s assistant trainer Billy Aprahamian. “Because Boxing Day is such a big day in racing the horses need to be exercised as usual.”

There is a more relaxed start on Christmas Day, with the first lot pulling out at 8am, as opposed to the usual 6.30am.

“The aim is to do all the horses in one lot so we can leave the yard around 10am,” adds Billy. We always have plenty of local riders coming in to ride out on Christmas Day and there is always lots of tinsel and festive jumpers on display.”

At the yard, Christmas Day is treated like a Sunday, so any horses — from the 148 in-training — not racing over the festive period will have a day off.

“The boss then brings out champagne and sandwiches for all the staff after first lot which is always really nice,” adds Billy, who names Santini as his favourite horse to ride in the yard. “Then staff come back for evening stables after their Christmas lunches. So it’s very much like a usual day, just with some festivities thrown in.

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The Nicky Henderson yard will be sending out many horses over Christmas with exciting prospects to watch out for.

Fusil Raffles, the yard’s Champion Hurdle prospect, will be gunning for the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, while Billy also likes the look of the JP McManus-owned Epatante, who will run on Boxing Day too.

Don’t miss our full report from the Boxing Day racing at Kempton Park in the 2 January issue of Horse & Hound.  

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