The UK's largest racecourse group attracted record numbers of people to enjoy a day at the races during the last year, according to new figures published today by Jockey Club Racecourses whichshow in 2015 its total attendances surpassed 1.9 million for the first time ever.
Jockey Club Racecourses, which runs the likes of the Cheltenham Festival, the Crabbie’s Grand National and The Investec Derby within its nationwide portfolio of 15 racecourses, welcomed a record 1,946,644 people to 336 horseracing fixtures it staged in 2015.
This represents a year-on-year total attendance increase of 8.5% – more than 150,000 people – despite staging 7.2% (26) fewer fixtures compared to 2014 when 1,794,797 spectators attended 362 events. Average crowds per fixture grew even more significantly, up 16.9% on prior year (2015: 5,794, 2014: 4,958).
The previous record attendance at Jockey Club Racecourses was recorded in 2011 when 1,897,453 racegoers attended 365 fixtures – 29 fixtures more than in the year just completed.
These figures are based on official data submitted to the Horserace Betting Levy Board. As this does not include spectators on ‘The Hill’ at Epsom Downs, where many thousands of people attend The Investec Derby Festival for free, in reality Jockey Club Racecourses welcomed in excess of 2 million racegoers in 2015.
As The Jockey Club is governed by Royal Charter to act for the long-term good of British Racing, all profits generated by its racecourse arm are reinvested back into the nation’s second-biggest spectator sport. It has contributed more than £400 million in the last decade alone, predominantly through prize money to support the livelihoods of those who work in British Racing and provide a return to racehorse owners, and through investments in top quality facilities for customers and participants.
Paul Fisher, Group Managing Director of Jockey Club Racecourses, said:
"More people than ever before went racing with The Jockey Club in 2015 as a result of efforts to promote our thrilling sport and the experience we offer nationwide, and then giving people an excellent day out when they come racing with us. We must credit the horses and horsemen at the heart of our sport at the same time as our hardworking teams whose efforts allow us to reinvest all profits from staging our racedays back into British Racing to support its long-term health."
The largest events were the four-day Cheltenham Festival, which attracted 248,464 people, the three-day Crabbie’s Grand National Festival, which was attended by 142,579, and the two-day Investec Derby Festival, which welcomed around 160,000 spectators (only 53,475 of which are recorded in the Levy Board figures as cited earlier).
However, attendances increased across the board at The Jockey Club’s tracks: Cheltenham was up 33,484; Epsom Downs up 2,634; Exeter up 6,653; Haydock Park up 32,199; Huntingdon up 7,167; Kempton Park up 3,697 (despite staging far fewer fixtures); Market Rasen up 20,580; Newmarket’s two courses up 35,421; Nottingham up 2,053; Sandown Park up 26,324; Warwick up 4,167; and Wincanton up 8,256. Carlisle attracted almost exactly the same crowds as in 2014 despite staging one less ‘racing plus music’ event, while Aintree saw total attendances reduce by less than the extra crowd attracted to the free Betfred Becher Chase Day that featured in the 2014 numbers, meaning that crowds grew at the course compared to a normal year.
Paul Fisher expanded:
“As an outdoor sport, bad weather always has potential to dampen our crowds, so while there’s been plenty of rainfall, I was pleased we didn’t lose too many fixtures in 2015 (5), especially as we were already scheduled to stage fewer than the previous year.
“I’m very proud we’ve broken our attendance record in spite of slow economic growth and consumer confidence that isn’t exactly racing away. Our sales and marketing teams deserve huge credit as well as our operations personnel for delivering great experiences.
“Our previous record year for crowds was actually achieved during the downturn when general admissions held up very well during those tough times. However, our hospitality sales were dramatically impacted by recession, so I’m pleased to report through a combination of creating, marketing, selling and delivering new and enhanced hospitality experiences at a range of price points we’ve been able to achieve record hospitality sales at a time when businesses are spending again, albeit cautiously. That adds many thousands to our total attendance.
“Beyond the core points I’ve outlined about promoting our events and delivering great customer experiences, there are many local or event-specific reasons for such a strong overall performance in 2015. That ranges from the economic recovery in Ireland and the hospitality resurgence helping to achieve a record crowd for The Festival at Cheltenham right through to the scramble to see AP McCoy’s final day in the saddle at a sold-out Sandown Park for the Bet365 Jumps Finale in April. No single event has caused it.
“Our ‘racing plus music’ nights were once again highly profitable in 2015 and included several sell-outs, but we intentionally staged 13 fewer than in 2014. That’s because we focused our strategy on profitability through fewer events with bigger available artists. So in terms of impact on attendances this wasn’t a factor in the record because we ended up with the same total crowds from fewer events, although of course significantly up per event from the draw of bigger artists, as was the plan.”
Jockey Club Racecourses was on course to beat its full-year attendances record throughout 2015 as a further demonstration no single event or month was responsible. In the first six months of the year the UK’s leading racecourse group welcomed more than 1 million people to its fixtures for the first time ever.
About The Jockey Club
The Jockey Club has been at the heart of British racing for more than 260 years. Today the largest commercial group in the sport, The Jockey Club runs the largest racecourse group in the UK by turnover (2014: £162.9m), courses (15) including those at Aintree, Cheltenham, Epsom Downs and Newmarket, attendances (2015: 1.95m), total prize money (2014: £43.7m), contribution to prize money (2014: £19.1m) and quality racing (Group and Graded races); more than 3,000 acres of world-class training grounds in Newmarket, Lambourn and Epsom Downs; The National Stud breeding enterprise and education provider; and the charity for racing's people in need, Racing Welfare. Governed by Royal Charter, every penny The Jockey Club makes it puts back into British racing. More information is available at www.thejockeyclub.co.uk.