Cheltenham Festival: Capacity for each day set to be capped at 68,500 from next year

Cheltenham slashes crowd capacity to ease pressure on ‘stretched’ facilities | Horse racing news

Edward Whitaker (

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Cheltenham Festival: Capacity for each day set to be capped at 68,500 from next year

Edward Whitaker (

By James Stevens

Maximum capacity for each day at the Cheltenham Festival is set to be capped at 68,500 from 2023 in a bid to benefit the experience of racing fans.

The Racing Post reported in April that Cheltenham were considering a reduction with attendance records of 73,754 and 73,875 on St. Patrick’s Thursday and Gold Cup Friday described as “stretching the infrastructure to the limit”, according to track manager Ian Renton.

A record total of 280,627 spectators attended the four-day meeting this year, but under new restrictions the maximum capacity for the week will be 274,000.

Renton said: “It was fantastic to attract crowds at capacity on Thursday and Friday to watch brilliant racing in glorious sunshine. However, we are well aware that our facilities, even after significant investment in recent years, are stretched at these levels of attendance.

“Despite the financial implications of reduced attendance, we will cap daily capacity at 68,500 in recognition of the importance of ensuring the festival remains an engaging and enjoyable experience over the long term.”

The news comes as racetracks are going through a tough year to lure racing fans through the doors. Average attendance was the lowest this century and down 17.6% from pre-pandemic levels.

Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

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Cheltenham Festival: The meeting drew a crowd of 280,627 over the four days this year

Cheltenham Festival: The meeting drew a crowd of 280,627 over the four days this year

Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

This year’s festival – the first to have a crowd since the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions – has, however, turned the tide markedly, with crowd sizes increasing by around 14,000 people from 266,779 in 2019.

Tuesday and Wednesday crowds will not be significantly impacted. A total of 68,567 people witnessed the success of Honeysuckle’s Champion Hurdle on Tuesday while 64,431 were on course for a wet Wednesday.

Royal Ascot has also reduced its capacity from 51,500 in 2019 to 44,100 at this year’s meeting, also in a bid to improve the on-going people experience. It was a 14 per cent drop, but Cheltenham’s cut equates to a 7 per cent drop from last season’s Gold Cup attendance.

Renton added: “Ticket sales for 2023 have been very strong and I would advise those wishing to attend to book as soon as possible to avoid possible disappointment.”

Attendance at the Cheltenham Festival


Tuesday: 68,567
Wednesday: 64,431
Thursday: 73,754
Friday: 73,875

Total: 280,627


Tuesday: 60,664
Wednesday: 56,943
Thursday: 65,218
Friday: 68,859

Total: 251,648


Tuesday: 67,934
Wednesday: 59 209
Thursday: 67,821
Friday: 71,849

Total: 266,813


Tuesday: 66,632
Wednesday: 58,959
Thursday: 66,382
Friday: 70,684

Total: 262,657


Tuesday: 66,019
Wednesday: 57,681
Thursday: 66,200
Friday: 70 160

Total: 260,060

Please note that the 2021 Cheltenham Festival took place behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic

The cap follows the announcement of an action plan launched by local police crime commissioner Chris Nelson to fight against anti-social behavior in the city during the week of the festival. The specific areas covered are drugs and violence against women.

More toilets are also expected to be located on roads near racetracks in response to complaints from local residents about racegoers urinating in gardens and parks.

A consultation on extending the Cheltenham Festival to five days is underway. In April, Renton said an extension could come as early as 2024.

Read this next:

Former BHA President Paul Roy calls for urgent action from race leaders

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