Countdown to Cheltenham: Fitzdares on boosting engagement ahead of The Festival

There’s less than a week to go in the Countdown to Cheltenham, and the racing industry has turned its attention to the runners and riders which are tipped for success. 

Speaking to William Woodhams, CEO of Fitzdares, he told SBC that the pre-Festival events such as The Fitzdares Club have been key in boosting engagement with the four-day event for the private bookmaker. 

Fitzdares, which recently signed Cornelius Lysaght as their lead racing ambassador, plans to use its 5 A Day offer to both retain members’ loyalty as well as boost excitement throughout The Festival.

SBC: The Festival is arguably one of the biggest events in the racing calendar, how is Fitzdares getting Festival ready? 

William Woodhams: This is the biggest event of the year and we practically started preparing in March last year. Our pre-campaign, the Calm Before The Roar, was launched on our microsite to get our members Festival ready with all our Cheltenham events, 25% brand partner discounts to help you dress for the Festival and more key details. We’ve recently launched our current campaign, called 5 A Day, giving everyone a free bet on the Cheltenham Tuesday.

SBC: Fitzdares is renowned for hosting a number of events ahead of the Festival, how has this helped boost engagement with members ahead of Cheltenham?

William Woodhams: We host over 30 events in the build-up to Cheltenham, have our private box on course, dinners in Cheltenham every evening and launch The Fitzdares Club for 700 people in both East and West London. All this massively boosts excitement, turnover, attendees and engagement. Most of all, it is fun for us and our members.

SBC: What role will request-a-bet and promotional offers, such as Fitzdares’ 5 a day, play in engaging punters with this year’s festival?

William Woodhams: If we start Cheltenham with a fantastic offer, we know we will retain our members’ loyalty throughout the week. Ultimately, however, it is the strength and excitement of the Festival that is most compelling.

SBC: Three of the shortest-priced favourites of the week have been lined up to race on the Wednesday of Cheltenham Festival – is this a worry for Fitzdares? and how do you plan to mitigate the risk of a ‘wednesday wipeout’? 

William Woodhams: Our free bet offer on Tuesday is likely to put us in a vulnerable position on Wednesday and we are fully expecting and preparing to get thumped. That said, hopefully the results can even themselves out across the week. If all the favourites win, there’s not a huge amount we can do!

SBC: The Gold Cup hasn’t been defended since 2004, what are the chances of current joint favourite Al Boum Photo doing it for Willie Mullins this year?

William Woodhams: The clue is in the odds – the chance of him winning it again is 4/1, or 20%. New pretenders are thin on the ground, so he must have every chance of winning back-to-back Gold Cups. If it rains like mad, all bets are off.

SBC: And finally, is there anyone that Fitzdares thinks we should be keeping our eye on?

William Woodhams: Our suspicion is that Gordon Elliott will be Top Trainer but that is akin to tipping Liverpool for the title. We also love amateur jockey David Maxwell, who owns and rides Bob And Co. He is a polarising figure but nobody can deny his absolute passion for the game.

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