It’s not long now until the summer of horse racing gets underway with the Royal Ascot festival.
Horse racing, as a spectator sport, has seen a steady growth in popularity in the United Kingdom, and now many of the top festivals are major events in the calendar and have become great days out for hundreds of thousands of people.
The UK horse racing calendar is highlighted by two huge festivals, the Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival.
The Royal Ascot is hailed as flat racing’s most prestigious meeting and is also said to be the Queen’s most favoured horse racing event. On the other hand, the Cheltenham Festival is the highlight of the jump season, hosting the world’s most prestigious National Hunt race: the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Both events attract visitors in the hundreds of thousands over the course of their festivals, and both have millions on offer for the horses racing, but how do the two compare?
The Royal Ascot is one of the largest horse racing events in the UK, not least on the betting front.
Bookmakers are taking bets on every race on every day of the meeting, with the prestigious Ascot Gold Cup, in particular, drawing a lot of punter interest: in that race, Order of St George will start as 4/5 favourite with William Hill.
Not only that, but there’s a lot of money to be spent around the ground, as well: In 2014, the attendees consumed 51,000 bottles of champagne, 131,000 pints of beer, 42,000 bottles of wine, and 160,000 glasses of Pimms.
It’s Britain’s most popular race, hosting around 300,000 people over the duration of the five-day festival. As a course, Ascot was the first in Europe to hit the 500,000 annual visitor mark, which is heavily influenced by the popularity and attendance of the Royal Ascot.
Financial results for the Ascot Racecourse were recently released, with the venue seeing a pre-tax profits rise from £4.4 million to £5.1 million, as well as a £1.2 million p.a. increase in prize money. They’ve made the Royal Ascot event the most valuable meeting in Britain, with £6.5 million in prize money available – with each day worth at least £1 million.
Starting off again on June 20, there’s no doubt that Royal Ascot is the crown jewel of this summer’s racing. It is the grandest meeting on the flat racing calendar and is probably the most revered horse racing event in the UK.
Hosting so many top races in the calendar such as the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Chase, and Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Cheltenham Festival is one of the most popular events in the United Kingdom and is the jewel of the jump season.
The event is a major earner for the course, the horses, and the local area. Gloucestershire enjoys an economic impact of £100million as a direct result of the Cheltenham Festival each year and then, when it comes to the actual racing, there was £575,000 in prize money given to the winner of the Gold Cup alone. As for consumption, 120,000 bottles of wine were drunk in 2015 as well as 265,000 pints of Guinness.
The Royal Ascot is the UK’s favourite flat meeting, whereas the Cheltenham Festival is the UK’s favourite jump meeting. But when it boils down to it, the Royal Ascot turns in as the top event: boasting more visitors, higher prestige, and the attendance of the Royal family.