Cheltenham boss rules out Saturday Gold Cup

Ian Renton - Cheltenham Director

The new racecourse director at Cheltenham, Ian Renton, took up post this week, and the first thing he wanted to make clear was that he was not planning any changes to the way things run there.

That meant an immediate ruling out an extension of the Festival meeting to five days, and any possibility of a Saturday Gold Cup for the foreseeable future. Just four days into the job is not the time to start tearing up 30 years of steady growth and development. Speaking at his first press conference on Wednesday, Renton said, "If the four days – Tuesday to Friday – continue to be successful, why change anything? So certainly it wouldn't be at the top of my agenda. As and when we complete the new development and we see how the attendances stand up over the four days, that is the time to reconsider it."

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The new development he referred is a huge project to replace all the buildings on the track which were put up before 1970, and it is expected it will take two years to complete, and is unlikely even to start until after the 2014 Festival. Renton’s predecessor, Edward Gillespie will remain on hand, apparently in a backroom role, but more likely as a day-to-day project manager, to ensure the development runs smoothly. That will leave Renton free to concentrate on the racing and corporate activity at Cheltenham.

Renton said he was on a huge learning curve, in which he wanted to understand the role of every member of the Cheltenham team before considering any changes. He said, "An awful lot here is fantastic but there will be areas that we'd all like to look at and think there can be improvements, and explore any areas that we can move forward and continue to raise the bar. I certainly recognise that the service we provide when we've got 60,000-plus racegoers here is not up to the quality of the racing.

It's a wonderful experience – people are very tolerant – and if there is any way within the existing facilities we can improve that experience that's certainly something I'll be concentrating on. But an awful lot of that will not happen until such time as we can invest in new bricks and mortar to increase their comfort. The bar is very high and the job's Edward's done is fantastic, but customer expectations move on every year and we'll try and keep pace with them."

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