Recently RTE claimed that Irish racing fans are worth €22m to Cheltenham. The article also documents the increasing number of Irish runners and winners at the festival since 1998. There has been a general trend of increasing crowds too.
The chart below shows the total attendance at the Cheltenham Festival 1989-2015. The expansion of the festival in 2005 to four days is a key factor in explaining this increasing trend. The blip in 2008 occurred because the second day of the Festival was cancelled due to stormy weather.
The highest first day attendance was in 2015 when 63,251 gave the introductory roar. The second highest opening day figure was in 2002 – 62,296 was the recorded number. Given that the foot and mouth crisis caused the festival to be cancelled in 2001, absence may have made the heart grow fonder.
The biggest ever crowd to go through the turnstiles from 1989-2015 was on Gold Cup day on the 16th March 2012. 70,765 individuals saw the great Tony McCoy win the Gold Cup on the Jonjo O'Neill trained Synchronised.