Horse racing is one of the most lucrative sports in the world, and its revenue continues to grow year upon year due to its popularity. Millions of people tune in to watch the leading races and attend meets across the globe. Few sporting events can quite match the excitement of horse racing, especially if the contender you’re backing storms over the line in first place.
Perhaps no event has captured the imagination more than the Cheltenham Festival. The week-long Festival is a money-making machine for all involved, although revenue across the sport continues to rise with each passing year. Whether it’s the owners, jockeys, trainers, television companies, betting outlets and even punters – everyone is benefiting from the four days of action.
The major event of the week – the Cheltenham Gold Cup – offers prize money of £625,000, which is a staggering amount in jumps racing. The total amount paid out over the week to winners totals £4.59m – highlighting why the Festival is valued so dearly by those connected to the sport – notably the owners!
Flat racing offers more lucrative singular races such as Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe, the Dubai World Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. However, the atmosphere produced by the 71,000 fans that pour in Cheltenham Racecourse on an annual basis for Gold Cup Friday is unique.
It provides a different atmosphere to Royal Ascot, which is more of an upmarket affair, especially with the Royal Family in attendance. Cheltenham has targeted an audience of the ordinary fan and it has certainly yielded success.
Cheltenham Festival averages 65,000 spectators per day, meaning over a quarter of a million spectators flood through the gates during the week. It is estimated that the event takes at least £20m in ticket sales, while the food and beverages on offer will certainly edge that towards the £30m mark if not higher. The Cotswolds certainly appreciates the Festival, providing a huge boost to the local economy in March every year, worth approximately £100m to the region.
ITV also benefit greatly from the event, averaging a shade over 1.4m viewers for the opening day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. That has grown from 1.1m on the same day of 2017, proving that the popularity of the Festival is only increasing, although there was a slight dip on Gold Cup Friday. It’s nothing for ITV to be concerned about and they have reaffirmed their commitment to racing as a whole with a new four-year broadcast deal worth £30m to keep the sport on free-to-air television.
Then there are the bookies. There are estimates that up to £500m is gambled on Cheltenham Festival every year – a truly incredible figure and certainly one that the bookmakers relish. They tailor their content and offers to attract new customers and lure existing ones to punt with enticing bonuses. Being armed with sound knowledge of the sport is a good idea before betting on horse racing; therefore, it’s always best to follow the action throughout the National Hunt campaign. Building a solid picture of the competitors – both horse and jockey – can potentially be very fruitful indeed.
Cheltenham can be anything other than predictable. Upsets have happened in recent times, although the form of Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup may have brought tears to the eyes of a few bookies that were forced to pay out on the favourite in 2020. The importance of Cheltenham Festival for them cannot be understated, which can make-or-break their business plans for the next year.
The organisers of the event have found a sweet spot in the calendar to keep eyes in the United Kingdom on horse racing. They have situated Cheltenham Festival away from major football, rugby and cricket events. It ensures that the Festival will only continue to dominate the sporting landscape in March.
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