Although it can be a pain in the backside for residents what with 250,000 punters descending on the town, the value of the Cheltenham Festival to the local economy cannot be underestimated.
Indeed, a new survey has revealed that the four-day extravaganza pumps around £274 million into Cheltenham’s coffers – more than doubling the previous estimate of £100 million back in 2016.
From accommodation to food and drink, many racegoers book their Cheltenham stays months in advance of the Festival – boosting business for local hoteliers, restaurants, pubs and shops.
But with many scoring tickets for just one day of the meeting but sticking around in Cheltenham before and after, the increase in spending per person, on average, has risen from £584 in 2016 to £697 in 2022 as punters look to make the most of their getaway.
“We got the sense that people were arriving earlier than we anticipated. Of course, the one-day attendees are still high, but people are arriving a day or two before they attend and staying a day or two after,” said Dr Charles Afriyie, an accounting lecturer at the university of Gloucester who had conducted the research.
“The biggest chunk was around entertainment and refreshments so about half is going to these two. It is fascinating to see how the festival has continued to grow.”
The 2022 edition of the Cheltenham Festival drew a record crowd of 280,627, but that won’t be matched this year as racecourse bosses made the controversial decision to cap each day’s attendance at 68,500, in order to ‘enhance the race-going experience’.
What’s the Weather for the Cheltenham Festival?
For the most part, Cheltenham has avoided the snow that has bedecked much of England in the past few days.
There are some wintry showers around, but for the most part it’s rain, rather than snow, that will inform the going at Prestbury Park next week.
Those eyeing an ante-post flutter or two will note that the current going is good-to-soft, good in places, but with rain forecast over the weekend and into the start of next week, that could soon shift to good-to-soft on Tuesday and perhaps even soft for the second day of action on the Old Course on Wednesday.
There’s an almighty deluge expected on St Patrick’s Day (Thursday), and while course officials will be able to keep the New Course in pristine condition for the first day of racing there, by Friday – which features the Gold Cup amongst other prestigious renewals – the New Course may have switched to heavy going altogether.
“Temperatures are set to rise over the weekend and reach double digits, but we could get some more rain before then,” said Cheltenham’s clerk of the course, Jon Pullin.
“Thursday looks to be the day where we could see the most rain – forecasts are varying but we could see 5-10mm.”
At least the showers won’t lead to a repeat of ‘watering-gate’ in 2022, when Prestbury Park officials decided to water the track before the rain came – forcing a number of horses, including Bravemansgame, to be withdrawn and landing staff an almighty earful from Paul Nicholls.