Record crowds and Tote turnover at Cheltenham

We have already noted some of the records set at Cheltenham last week, by both horses and trainers. And whilst the achievements of Big Buck’s and Nicky Henderson are the ones that will stick in our minds, there were notable ‘highests and biggests’ off the track as well, that will have left both Cheltenham and bookmakers Betfred particularly happy.

Attendances at the Festival were up on each of the four days compared with last year. Friday’s gate of 70,458 for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup is the highest for the final day of the Festival, and the record aggregate of the four days, well over a quarter of a million somehow sounds higher to me that the actual figure of 236,730.

Now I wasn’t able to get to the Festival either this year or last, but when I was there in 2010 I began to question whether it was worth going, such was the crush and surge of people in Tatts. Moving around the concourse was manageable, and you could get some kind of view around the parade ring most of the time – a good one if you were prepared to watch one of the races on the big screen there. But I do think that we must be coming close to the time when the sold out notices are up for all four days of the Festival, on safety considerations if nothing else.

Matt was there for the first two days this year and I’d be interested to know how much of the action he could really watch ‘live’.

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There are plans ahead for a major redevelopment of the stands and facilities – for which read expansion – and these would ease some of the pressure. But they could also pave the way for major changes to the Festival itself: an increase in the number of races, an expansion to five days, and almost certainly a move to make Saturday the climax of the Festival.

How do you feel about that?

As for Betfred, betting levels reached new highs in three areas of Tote operations on Friday. Overall racecourse Tote turnover at £3,332,953 was up 11% from 2011, and crossed the £3m threshold for the first time.

Off course activity contributes to an astonishing £944,707 which went into the pool for the Gold Cup itself. And Betfred’s Totepool spokesman George Primarolo was clearly delighted that the Placepot pool on Friday set a new landmark by smashing through the £1m pound barrier. He said, “The biggest Tote Placepot pool has capped off a fantastic week for Totepool, with on course turnover up 11 per cent on the final day.”

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