JCR attendances up 100,000 in first quarter of 2015

21st May 2015

Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR), the UK's leading racecourse group1, welcomed nearly 100,000 more racegoers to its racedays in the first quarter of this year, despite staging 10 fewer fixtures in that period compared to 2014.

Across 66 fixtures, JCR welcomed a total of 479,551 racegoers between January to March 2015, an increase of 26 percent year-on-year when 381,028 people attended 76 fixtures in the first three months of 2014.

Highlights included in excess of 15,000 more racegoers attending the four days of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival compared to 2014 and Sandown Park doubling its attendances in March. Three free racedays – at Huntingdon,
Kempton Park and Market Rasen – attracted circa 22,000 additional racegoers than for those fixtures in 2014; however this was only 22 percent of the total JCR increase.

The news comes as the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) released figures that showed British racing as a sport welcomed attendances of 875,323 in the first quarter of 2015, up from 696,934 year-on-year. JCR's attendance increase accounted for 55 percent of the total increase and the racecourse group welcomed 55 percent of total Q1 attendances in British racing from staging 22 percent of the sport's fixtures.

JCR's second quarter attendances, up to the end of June, will include year-on-year growth in the Crabbie's Grand National Festival at Aintree, a sell-out bet365 Jumps Finale at Sandown Park buoyed by being Champion Jump jockey AP McCoy's farewell raceday, increased crowds at the QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket's Rowley Mile, and The Investec Derby at Epsom Downs, which is enjoying strong pre-sales.

Paul Fisher, Group Managing Director of Jockey Club Racecourses, said:

"We started 2015 well and overall things are continuing in that vein, in particular at our big events. We're delighted to have welcomed almost 100,000 more people to Jockey Club Racecourses in the first quarter of this year compared to last and for the sport to be up as a whole.

"We're seeing a number of different reasons for this. Ultimately the promotion of our sport and our events is working, we've been able to create attention or capitalise on high profile moments, including the retirement of AP McCoy, and
three free racedays boosted crowds too. 

"These are first quarter figures though so that AP factor only kicked in towards the and mainly and the Cheltenham Festival was on course for a record before AP's news, but we'll really feel the benefit of that more in April, including the bet365 Jumps Finale that sold out.

"The Cheltenham Festival growth for example was about good marketing and PR around the event and the new racecourse development, the good experience racegoers were having at Cheltenham earlier in the season, increased hospitality bookers as the economy recovers a bit and as we create more choice for them, and double
the number of bookers with an Irish postcode as the economy over there improves.

"Three free days also helped drive up attendance numbers, although they do cost us money compared to a smaller crowd paying to come in. It's a myth that customers' on course spend will make up for the gate receipts and when you put in the prize money that we do, free fixtures can become expensive. But they are part of our marketing mix to open up the sport to more people and we'll do more of them where it makes sense."

1 By turnover (2014: £162.9m), courses (15), attendances (2014: 1.8m), total prize money (2014: £43.7m), contribution to prize money (2014: £19.1m) and quality racing (Group and Graded races).