Home » British horse racing crowds up in 2024 despite worsening weather

British horse racing crowds up in 2024 despite worsening weather

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – APRIL 13: Racegoers enjoy the racing and cheer on the hores at Aintree Racecourse on April 13, 2024 in Liverpool, England. One of the highlights of the racing calendar the Grand National is a steeplechase dating back to 1892. It is known the world over and is a race over fences, run for four miles and two-and-a-half furlongs. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

British horse racing chiefs are toasting a much-needed boost to attendances during the first quarter of the year despite bad weather hitting more fixtures.

Average crowds were up 4.6 per cent and total attendances increased 2.5 per cent compared to last year, to 2,319 and 681,476 respectively. 

It comes after the Cheltenham Festival saw attendance plummet by 11,000 over the jump racing spectacular last month.

Racegoer numbers benefited from Easter falling in March this year – more than 50,000 punters visited a racecourse across the weekend, including 9,000 at Newcastle.

Attendances for the quarter might have been higher but for persistent bad weather leading to 36 abandoned fixtures, up from 31 in the same period last year.

“The small, but encouraging, increase in attendances to British racecourses in Q1 of 2024 is welcome news although optimism should be tempered by the timing of Easter in 2024,” said Race Course Association chief executive David Armstrong.

“Racecourses continue to face significant financial headwinds and are constantly aspiring to offer the best experience to all visitors, from a raceday experience perspective for paying customers to the best racing surface, facilities and competitive prize money for participants.”

Premier Racing, an initiative designed to elevate top meetings introduced at the end of last year, is credited with generating higher crowds. 

Uttoxeter’s The Midlands Grand National fixture at Uttoxeter saw a 15 per cent increase in crowds, while Kelso’s Morebattle Hurdle Day recorded its highest attendance since 2015.

“Whilst it is very early days, the increased attendance at some of our Premier fixtures is heartening to see,” Armstrong added

“Premier Racing was designed to promote the highest quality racing, and it is great to see the public react favourably. Work to promote our sport, be it at Premier or Core fixtures, continues at pace as we look forward to major promotional campaigns launching this summer.

 “We are all aware of the very wet weather, however seeing the Met Office statistics brings into perspective the challenge our members have faced in fulfilling their fixtures. 

“My sincere praise goes to the Groundstaff who work tirelessly in difficult conditions to ensure their racing surfaces remain ready to race.”