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Cheltenham Festival to remain four days - Key racing figures speak out

18 Oct 2022
jon-vine
Jon Vine 18 Oct 2022
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  • The Cheltenham Festival will remain a four-day event for the foreseeable future
  • The Jockey Club had been discussing plans to extend the meeting into a fifth day
  • Those plans were shelved on Monday
  • Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson are all in favour of the decision
cheltenham festival crowd
Large crowds enjoy the action during Ladies Day at Cheltenham Festival. (Getty)

The Jockey Club announced on Monday that the Cheltenham Festival will remain a four-day event.

The Cheltenham Festival is, by a country mile, the most marketable event in jumps racing. Cheltenham week generates such a large amount of revenue for the sport, that many have been clamoring for a fifth day to be added to the meeting.

A six-month consultation had been ongoing involving The Jockey Club and other key organisations. Many on the panel were said to be in favour of adding a Saturday card to the Cheltenham Festival - which would have been headlined by the Ryanair Chase, officially promoting that Grade One to Championship Race status.

Despite the press claiming it was "more than likely" that a fifth day would be added when talks came to an end on Monday, the Jockey Club announced that the Cheltenham Festival was to remain unaltered - much to the delight of the purists.

“It’s a huge decision for the Jockey Club." Ruby Walsh told the Racing Post when he reacted to the news.

"Financially it makes sense for them to have a fifth day, but I think it’s the first time the sport has been put before profit. To me, that’s a great thing. This is Cheltenham and the Jockey Club saying no to God knows how much income. They’re turning down financial gain for the benefit of the sport."

“By keeping it to four days, the whole experience for punters, fans and racegoers is enough. They’ve definitely read the room on this and you’d have to give them credit for doing so, but you’d also hope that now racecourses will realise the people in the sport want the best for it. You’d hope more might listen when the sport is being spread too thin.”

British Champions Trainer, Paul Nicholls was quoted as saying that "common sense" had prevailed. Nicky Henderson was also in sympathy with the decision.

“Early on I was quite keen on the idea of an extra day but I do think they’ve come to the right decision in the end." Henderson told the press. 

"I can see both sides of it and I’m not going to rattle on about why I did think it was a good idea, but at the end of the day one of the key things was whether the ground would take an extra day and that’s vital. There were pros and cons but everybody seems happy with it this way."

It was thought that Willie Mullins - the winning-most trainer at the Cheltenham Festival - would support a fifth day being added to the schedule. However, he too praised the Jockey Club's decision when the news broke on Monday.

“I think it is a good decision to keep it compact and tighter and I’m very happy that is the decision they have come to.” Mullins told the Irish Times.

“There’s pros and cons. Five days would make it easier for us getting horses and staff over and back – I would imagine if they went to five days there would be less races per day, so it might have been easier."

“But I think the best decision has been made at this point in time for the meeting. It’s great they have come out and put everyone’s mind at rest about what is happening, so we welcome that decision.” 

GB

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