By Jessie Sale, October 17, 2022 — The Jockey Club has made the decision to keep Cheltenham Festival – jump racing’s biggest meeting – as a four-day event, as reported by the Racing Post.
Following a consultation into whether the Festival should be lengthened to a five-day meet, the potential extension would have resulted in six races being run each day.
With an extra two races being added to the competition, the total number run over the event would have equalled 30.
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.”
In March 2022, the event attracted a total attendance of 280,627 across the four days – a record in racing.
On the organisation’s decision, 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.”
However, those in support of a fifth day highlighted the outcome of a financial boost. As the local economy gains £100 million each year from the event alone, an extra day would have the potential to grow this revenue even further.
Some racing stakeholders have also backed the possible extension as a means to boost crowd numbers and revenues for the sport, which is continuing to recover from the financial impact of COVID-19.
this story first appeared in Insider Sport