A major redevelopment of Cheltenham racecourse is planned to take place between the end of the 2014 Festival and the start of the 2016 Festival. The bill for all the changes is currently estimated at £45 million, though in the nature of these things it will very likely be considerably more.
The Jockey Club, which runs Cheltenham, will raise much of the money through the normal banking processes, but is also taking the novel step of inviting racing fans to contribute towards the cost. It hopes to raise £15m through The Jockey Club Racecourses Bond, the first such venture in British sport.
Investors can put up between £2,000 and £100,000 for a period of five years, during which period they will be paid a gross return of 7.75%. The scheme will only go ahead if there are applications worth £5m, but as there is an upper cap of £25m, the portents must be pretty good.
There is a period of one month to decide; the bonds will be issued on a first-come first-served basis up until 15 May. For putting your money in you get a cash return of 4.75% topped up by 3% in points in the Jockey Club’s Rewards4Racing loyalty scheme.
I’m certainly tempted, simply because I’m taken with the idea of contributing towards Cheltenham’s future. I know it doesn’t need me, but how often does a small-scale punter, long time racing fan have the chance to play a real part in the development of our primary jump racecourse. So what if in my case it might only run to painting the lavatory doors? It would be something to tell the grandkids.
Launching the bond, Paul Fisher, Group Managing Director of Jockey Club Racecourses, said, “Several million people every year enjoy a day at the races, whether you are lifelong fan of the sport or just love a great day out. Our racecourse bond offers you generous cash returns at a time of rock-bottom interest rates, with a racing rewards element that can pay for your racing experience at any of our 15 courses nationwide. The money we raise from The Jockey Club Racecourse Bond will go straight into British racing through the iconic £45m development we are planning at Cheltenham Racecourse, so if you take up the bond, you get a generous return and you will be making a difference to our fantastic and growing sport."
I think I’ve talked myself into it……