Racecourse attendances stand up to ‘Beast from the East’

British horseracing attendances stood up well to the country’s worst weather in years from January to June, with the average attendance per fixture more than 3% up on 2017, despite the abandonment of 69 race meetings.

Like many racecourses, Chepstow was hit hard by the freezing conditions

The total number of attendees in the first half of 2018 was 2,753,397 at 704 fixtures, slightly down on the same period for 2017, but given the challenging weather conditions in the first three months or so of the year, that figure is viewed positively by the industry.

With 69 abandonments, considerably more than the 18 during the same period in 2017, a total of 22 short-notice replacement fixtures took place, providing opportunities for horsemen and also to ensure levy continued to be generated. Despite having been arranged at speed, providing the public and bookmakers with limited notice, these fixtures still attracted more than 11,000 racegoers in total.

Despite these challenges, the average attendance for the first half of 2018 was 3,911, compared to 3,787 last year.

Year Total Attendance (January to June) Fixtures Staged Average Attendance
2016 2,805,467 707 3968
2017 2,798,479 739 3787
2018 2,753,397 704 3911


Encouragingly, the major festivals during the first half of the year have performed well, with The Festival at Cheltenham, the Randox Grand National, the Boodles May Festival, The Investec Derby Festival and Royal Ascot all growing attendances year on year from 2017 to 2018.

Major festivals like the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree have grown in the first half of 2018. Photo credit: David Davies/PA Wire

Stephen Atkin, Chief Executive at the Racecourse Association (RCA) commented: “The weather conditions experienced so far in 2018 have been the most challenging that racing has faced for some considerable time. To see our average attendance increase during this period is testament to the hard work and dedication of the racecourse teams in all disciplines, but particular praise must go to groundstaff, who have worked tirelessly in incredibly challenging conditions across the country. We are also grateful to horsemen and BHA for their support.

“I’m thrilled to see the crown jewels of our sport retaining their affinity with the public and performing so well. The increased publicity around events such as The Festival, the Randox Health Grand National and Royal Ascot can only benefit the sport.

“The industry as a whole is working on some fantastic initiatives to ensure we can offer a wonderful day out for racegoers that provides value for money. Our data programme with Great British Racing (GBR) is helping all racecourses to understand further the expectations of racegoers and GBR’s U18s Race Free campaign has injected some stardust with David Walliams and Billy Jenkins helping to promote racing’s unique offering to under 18s.”