SBC News “It’s so good as it is” as Cheltenham Festival sticks by four-day schedule

“It’s so good as it is” as Cheltenham Festival sticks by four-day schedule

Following a consultation into whether Cheltenham Festival should be extended to a five-day meet, the Jockey Club has decided to keep the event at its original four, the Racing Post reported.

Named jump racing’s biggest meeting, the potential extension would have resulted in six races being run each day. Therefore, with an extra two races being added, the total number run over the event would go to 30.

Ian Renton, Managing Director of the Jockey Club’s West Region, commented: “At the Jockey Club, we care deeply about the long-term future of our sport and its role in society. That’s a mission that enables us to think differently when making decisions.

“While we explored the financial benefits and an opportunity to reach new audiences, we also found a number of counterpoints to this. 

‘For example, it is clear that it would be challenging from a turf management perspective, without further work on the track, and on balance we still feel 28 races over four days is the right format.

“We are extremely grateful to everyone who has taken part in this process and have welcomed the opportunity to listen to owners, participants, Jockey Club colleagues, the local community, our partners, loyal racing fans and many others with a passion for our sport and the festival.”

Those in support of a fifth day spoke of a financial boost. As the local economy gains £100 million each year from the event alone, an extra day has the potential to grow this revenue even further.

Additionally, some figures in racing were supportive due to the greater potential for fan engagement and revenue that a five-day racing programme could pose, as the sport continues to recover from COVID-19’s financial blow.

In March 2022, the event attracted a total attendance of 280,627 across the four days – a record in racing.

British Racehorse Trainer, Nicky Henderson, has reportedly backed the decision, despite initial calls for a longer event. 

“It’s so good as it is. I saw some pros and cons to it either way,” he said. “I’m really not desperately fussed, but having said that I sort of was leaning on it thinking if we had six races a day, you didn’t need to start until 2pm and then you don’t dilute the product.”

“Bear in mind it is not compulsory to go, it is for us trainers but not for everybody else! I do see the logic and I probably would say yes, it’s the right decision.

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