According to The Telegraph, the Jockey Club is considering adding a fifth day to the Cheltenham Festival by 2023, as the organisation aims to ‘explore every option’ to strengthen both the event and the sport of horse racing.
If the Festival is enlarged, it will join the Punchestown Festival in Ireland and the just concluded Royal Ascot, the latter of which has been held over five days since 2003.
The primary motivation for the enlargement stems from recent events at Ascot, where a younger throng attended the final fixtures on Saturday, June 19.
Broadening of event and general audience
The Jockey Club is anxious to broaden both the event’s and the sport’s general audience, thus this might be extremely helpful to the Cheltenham Festival and horse racing in general.
Following the financial repercussions of the COVID-19 epidemic, which is expected to cost racing £90 million by 2020, a possible extension of the Festival has become particularly appealing, as has the 2015 refurbishment of the Princes Royal stand to increase capacity to 6,500 for £45 million.
The Jockey Club said in a statement: “The last time this was discussed in earnest in public, some key stakeholders in our sport expressed their desire for a fifth day.
“We always explore every option to improve the Festival and support British racing, but we have made no decision to extend the length.”
Improvement to local economy
Should an expansion be approved, it will almost certainly improve the local economy in the hosting town of Cheltenham, which now benefits from an estimated £100 million each year from the current four-day festival.
Additionally, both betting operators and broadcasters would undoubtedly appreciate a broadening of the popular event’s timetable.
During this year’s edition of the festival, Oddschecker claimed over 31,000 customer registrations, a 93 percent increase over the previous year, while Scientific Games (SG) reported a’record breaking’ number of bets, totaling over 70 million wagers and marking a 53 percent rise in 2020.
Meanwhile, the opening day of the event attracted an average of 1.1 million spectators, with a total of 1.5 million tuning in to watch Rachael Blackmore win the Champions Hurdle.
Additionally, the Racecourse Media Group (RMG) saw a 60 percent year-over-year increase throughout all four days, with individual races averaging up to 500,000 streams.