Five day Festival? No thanks

23-June-2021
23-June-2021 12:59
in General
by Russell Smith

You know the racing world is short of news when the hoary old chestnut of yet another day to the Cheltenham Festival rears its ugly head again. 

I can scarcely believe this debate has resurfaced once more, and it must surely be the case that this rumour emanated far from Prestbury Park. There are so many reasons why a 5 day Festival should not come on the agenda presently. 

Ground

Some might say it was foolhardy enough running a multi-day fixture in mid-March. Comparisons have been made with Punchestown which takes place a full 2 months later when the grass is growing. The racecourse was widened considerably prior to the implementation of a four day Festival in 2005, but even so, 100+ runners a day can give ground quite a lot of punishment. You'd have to be nervous that the high standards maintained over decades of careful management could readily be compromised without further investment, and I can't see a whole lot of additional space, can you?

Race planning

According to the  twitterati, apparently, you need only invent two additional races to manage 5 days of six race cards. Yet the fixture is already well diluted, so much so that races that ran with capacity fields like the four graded novice hurdles now scratch around for double figure fields. The idea that you might spirit another two races from a limited horse population without compromising quality is fatuous. 

There are already races at Jumping's most celebrated fixture that don't belong there. Some  might be there for good commercial reasons, like the Mares Hurdle, but it's no coincidence Quevega was able to win six times on the trot; the opposition was poor enough to enable her to do so. Dilution is already having a significant impact on the competitive nature of the event. 

And as for barging the Midlands National out of the way? What gives the Jockey Club the right to run a coach and horses through someone else's fixture? 

 

Uttoxeter's Spring showpiece - at risk from a 5 day Festival

Where is the value for spectators?

At circa £100 per day for Club admission, a day at the Festival isn't just any day at the races, nor is it intended to be. It works out at over £14 per race to watch. Reduce that to six races each day: will there be a reduction in the admission price? Will there, heck! As a paying customer, stretching the prevailing races over another day smacks of poor value. 

True, no-one has to go racing. And the pattern of attendance shifted noticeably when day 4 was introduced. Those that had persuaded themselves to spend 3 days away from the office and home recognized a fourth day was a bridge too far, and dropped back to 2 days. The loyalists were replaced by one day wonders with a high churn ratio. It was demonstrably a higher risk strategy.

 

Refilling the coffers after Covid

The Racing Post has reported that the Covid interruption has taken £90m off the Jockey Club's bottom line, and I can verify that the organisation has been through more restructures than British Leyland, as many who lost their jobs can testify. But there is a legion of other options to rebuild, all of which could protect JCR from over-reliance upon 4 days in March. No other racecourse group is as heavily reliant upon one course, one fixture. 

Look at the recent success of the Aintree meeting, providing very valuable alternatives to Cheltenham's supremacy as a Championships. And for that matter, other fixtures at Cheltenham, where growth could be accelerated. 

The Jockey Club is full of highly paid, articulate people who should be able to work out other options for mending their finances. If the current rumour originated in High Holborn or at Prestbury Park, they really need to think again. It smacks of greed and spectators will vote with their wallets.

 

Next Event

When?

Season curtailed. Come racing back next winter

 

 

 

 

 

Where?

Barbury, 3m N of Marlborough, off A346, Jn 15 M4

 

Latest News

Five day Festival? No thanks

23-June-2021
23-June-2021 12:59
in General
by Russell Smith

You know the racing world is short of news when the hoary old chestnut of yet another day to the Cheltenham Festival rears its ugly head again. 

I can scarcely believe this debate has resurfaced once more, and it must surely be the case that this rumour emanated far from Prestbury Park. There are so many reasons why a 5 day Festival should not come on the agenda presently. 

Ground

Some might say it was foolhardy enough running a multi-day fixture in mid-March. Comparisons have been made with Punchestown which takes place a full 2 months later when the grass is growing. The racecourse was widened considerably prior to the implementation of a four day Festival in 2005, but even so, 100+ runners a day can give ground quite a lot of punishment. You'd have to be nervous that the high standards maintained over decades of careful management could readily be compromised without further investment, and I can't see a whole lot of additional space, can you?

Race planning

According to the  twitterati, apparently, you need only invent two additional races to manage 5 days of six race cards. Yet the fixture is already well diluted, so much so that races that ran with capacity fields like the four graded novice hurdles now scratch around for double figure fields. The idea that you might spirit another two races from a limited horse population without compromising quality is fatuous. 

There are already races at Jumping's most celebrated fixture that don't belong there. Some  might be there for good commercial reasons, like the Mares Hurdle, but it's no coincidence Quevega was able to win six times on the trot; the opposition was poor enough to enable her to do so. Dilution is already having a significant impact on the competitive nature of the event. 

And as for barging the Midlands National out of the way? What gives the Jockey Club the right to run a coach and horses through someone else's fixture? 

 

Uttoxeter's Spring showpiece - at risk from a 5 day Festival

Where is the value for spectators?

At circa £100 per day for Club admission, a day at the Festival isn't just any day at the races, nor is it intended to be. It works out at over £14 per race to watch. Reduce that to six races each day: will there be a reduction in the admission price? Will there, heck! As a paying customer, stretching the prevailing races over another day smacks of poor value. 

True, no-one has to go racing. And the pattern of attendance shifted noticeably when day 4 was introduced. Those that had persuaded themselves to spend 3 days away from the office and home recognized a fourth day was a bridge too far, and dropped back to 2 days. The loyalists were replaced by one day wonders with a high churn ratio. It was demonstrably a higher risk strategy.

 

Refilling the coffers after Covid

The Racing Post has reported that the Covid interruption has taken £90m off the Jockey Club's bottom line, and I can verify that the organisation has been through more restructures than British Leyland, as many who lost their jobs can testify. But there is a legion of other options to rebuild, all of which could protect JCR from over-reliance upon 4 days in March. No other racecourse group is as heavily reliant upon one course, one fixture. 

Look at the recent success of the Aintree meeting, providing very valuable alternatives to Cheltenham's supremacy as a Championships. And for that matter, other fixtures at Cheltenham, where growth could be accelerated. 

The Jockey Club is full of highly paid, articulate people who should be able to work out other options for mending their finances. If the current rumour originated in High Holborn or at Prestbury Park, they really need to think again. It smacks of greed and spectators will vote with their wallets.

 

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