Will an Extra Day at the Cheltenham Festival Be Healthy for National Hunt Racing?

Grad III Races at Cheltenham Festival


The move has been touted for years, yet it finally appears as if the organizers of the Cheltenham Festival will add a sixth day from 2023. While it’s tempting to view more world-class racing as solely positive, the reality is that there’s a significant amount of backlash to the idea already, and nothing has even been formally confirmed.

We all love racing, and no event is as beloved in the National Hunt calendar as Cheltenham week. So, the question is, will an extra day be healthy or unhealthy in the long run? Let’s take a look and find out.

British Disillusionment

In 2021, the Irish raiders won 23 out of the 28 possible races on the cards over the four days, and they did it with fewer than 50% of the entrants. This highlights the superiority of the trainers and jockeys from Ireland, something you can already see in the betting markets for next year’s edition of the event. For example, the Gold Cup horse racing odds have four out of five of the favourites from Ireland, with the fifth being French.

What does this mean for the homegrown mounts? There can be two consequences, one of which being that it will give the UK runners another shot at levelling the playing field. Of course, the discrepancy in the numbers from the last couple of years probably indicates it will go the other way and the Irish-based horses will benefit the most.


If there ends up being growing disillusionment from the British side, including the punters, the festival could be on the losing side. After all, it won’t be as spectacular if there are fewer UK entrants and supporters to cheer the runners home.

A Broader Audience Pool

On the flip side, it’s an opportunity for fans of horse racing to seize an opportunity to travel to Gloucestershire and watch the legendary action in person. Typically, 250,000 people will flock to the racecourse each year, with the demand for tickets increasing annually.

By upping the number of races per day, as well as adding a new day with a packed race card, the ground will have a greater capacity to sell tickets and invite a larger number of people. Judging from the streaming numbers, most people would jump at the chance since the event’s highest-ever race volume was broken nine times in four days to a peak of 478,000 in 2021. As a result, 25% of next year’s ticket allocation has already been purchased.

But that’s only if the demand remains the same, which isn’t guaranteed. For instance, a survey in 2020 revealed that 54% of people asked thought a fifth day was an “awful” idea. 17% believed it was a “bad idea,” while 16% said it was a “good” or “excellent” proposal.

This week’s column: A five-day Cheltenham Festival would sell out National Hunt racing. RTs appreciated. https://t.co/9Y5hYHWluP pic.twitter.com/sQMm9kbwYR

— Kevin Blake (@kevinblake2011) January 6, 2020

Potential for a New Path  

There is the potential for success if other racing events are anything to go by. Before 2003, for instance, Royal Ascot was only four days long and then the organizers decided to extend it. Now, it runs from Tuesday until Saturday every year without fail.  

When it occurred initially, there was a lot of controversy over the decision, much like there is regarding the Cheltenham Festival in 2023. However, it’s mainly been positive since the event’s popularity isn’t in question and the revenues are bigger than ever, as evidenced by ITV’s decision to renew its rights deal.  

For the owners, trainers, and jockeys, it means the four days are prestigious and lucrative, while the racecourse and TV companies can command big audiences and the viewers get to watch world-class racing. It’s a win-win all-around.  

Nobody likes change, especially when it affects an institution such as the Cheltenham Festival. However, if it’s anything like Royal Ascot, the move will be justified. 

You may also like to read


Related posts