After months of anticipation and preparation, The Festival 2006 at Cheltenham is set to get underway on Tuesday, March 14, with 24 fantastic races in prospect. The cream of Britain, Ireland and France’s jumping talent will converge on Prestbury Park to compete for a record £2.87 million of prize money in front of a huge audience.
This final Media Information Pack includes all the latest news on The 2006 Festival with facts and figures about the many side attractions that complement the racing from Tuesday to Friday, March 14 to 17.
The going on Wednesday afternoon was GOOD, GOOD TO SOFT IN PLACES on the Chase and Hurdle courses and GOOD TO SOFT, GOOD IN PLACES on the Cross-Country Course.
Simon Claisse, Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham, said: “We had 1mm of rain on Tuesday night and a further 4.2mm of rain on Wednesday morning - the course is looking in great shape.
“The forecast between and now at the start of The Festival is for generally unsettled conditions.”
FACTS & FIGURES - THE FESTIVAL 2006
The Festival was an "all ticket" event in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 with all tickets selling out in advance of the Meeting. The Festival was successfully extended to four days in 2005 and this year will again be run on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, March 14-17 inclusive. Over 230,000 tickets have already been sold for The Festival this year with totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup day selling out back in January. A limited number of tickets will be available for purchase on the day for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. In 2005, 66,767 attended on Friday with the total attendance over the four days being over 231,000 - 35,000 more than the previous year. Over 350,000 racegoers attend Cheltenham's 16 annual fixtures with The Open Meeting in November being another highlight which attracted crowds in 2005 of 67,500 over the three-day weekend meeting.
Race Values & Sponsorship
Over Cheltenham's 05/06 16-day season prize money amounts to a record level of £4.82m, with £2.87m spread over the four days of The Festival, headed by the £400,000 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.
There are 18 individual race sponsors at The Festival and Guinness sponsor the Guinness Village. New sponsors in 2006 include Anglo Irish Bank, Ryanair Letheby & Christopher and the Racing Post.
The official estimate of total on-course betting turnover during The Festival is £40 million - an average of over £2 million per race. No returns are available from individual bookmakers operating at The Festival, although tote turnover is always a good indicator and in 2005 topped £10.3 million. This makes a cumulative total of £50m on course alone.
The Festival is the tote's highest turnover Meeting (including Royal Ascot) with totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup Day the highest turnover raceday in the entire racing calendar. The 2005 Festival accounted for 9% of the tote's annual racecourse turnover and during the four days over one million transactions were taken by more than 650 operators at Cheltenham. The Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup are ranked in the Top 10 tote betting races for 2005. There will be 750 tote staff working this year.
There are 226 bookmakers’ pitches at The Festival and the record number of transactions for a single bookmaker for one race was 700 by fearless Scottish bookie Freddie Williams, around 10 years ago. This equates to one transaction every two seconds!
Off course, the industry estimate for betting turnover through the four days of The Festival is over £400m, of which at least half is directly attributable to The Festival. Turnover at The Festival 2005 was 12% up for Ladbrokes.
The Festival is second only to the John Smith’s Grand National among the big annual betting events, and now regularly features in annual and half-yearly financial reports from publicly quoted gaming companies like William Hill, Blue Square (Rank) and Paddy Power.
Horses & Riders
With many races at The Festival appearing to be 'open' compared with previous seasons Cheltenham are expecting to welcome over 500 runners for the first time - 468 horses ran at the 2005 Festival, accompanied by circa 80 jockeys, 500 handlers, horsebox drivers and ancillary staff, physios, vets, doctors, and occasional security guards, not to mention the odd goat or donkey as a lucky mascot or stable companion!
Cheltenham's 300 stables burst at the seams, particularly since many foreign runners stay several days. Hunter's Lodge, the stable staff accommodation, looks after 450 staff who stay over with the horses, or who stay only for the day.
Nina Carberry (daughter of Gold Cup winning jockey Tommy Carberry and sister of successful Irish jockey Paul Carberry) became the first lady rider since Gee Armytage in 1986 to win against professional jockeys at The Festival when winning the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Hurdle aboard Dabiroun.
The Festival in Gloucestershire
The impact of The Festival is felt well beyond the racecourse gates. A huge number of businesses, large and small, benefit from the influx of spectators into the county. The economic value of The Festival was drawn sharply into focus back in 2001, the year foot and mouth forced the cancellation of the meeting. An economic impact study concluded that circa £30m is spent in the county during the week, of which 50% is spent within Cheltenham town, the remainder within the county.
5,300 staff are employed at Cheltenham during The Festival, including 3,000 on the catering side. This increase in employment boosts the local economy by at least 10%.
Taxi drivers are among the big winners of the week. An average Cheltenham cabby will earn in three days as much as he would in a fortnight's ordinary trade!
Cash is King!
You know where your money went last year, but do you know where it came from? In 2005, nearly £1m was dispensed by the 14 cashpoint machines around the racecourse. Small wonder the tote and bookmaker turnover keeps escalating.
Hotels in Cheltenham
It is estimated over 5,000 hotel beds are filled around the county. These range from 4-star hotels to small B&Bs. Like Wimbledon, many residents decamp for the week, and hire out their houses, but unlike Wimbledon, these are not to the sportsmen. They are hired by the corporate sector. The jockeys tend to stop over with friends or head home, Cheltenham being within an hour of the big training centres in Lambourn and within easy reach of the south-west.
This year, racegoers have been able to book accommodation direct from the racecourse through a new online reservation service, which provides information on availability throughout the county (and beyond), price and transport links. Racegoers from Ireland can now construct their entire holiday through Cheltenham by booking flights, accommodation and tickets through www.cheltenham.co.uk
The Festival is Channel 4's largest outside broadcast, using 35 cameras and 120 staff to bring The Festival into the living rooms of the UK and Ireland. Over 250 miles of cables and cutting edge technology like the Blimp and start camera jib make the programme one of the highlights of the year.
The steadicam is Channel 4's favourite camera. Handled by Channel 4's Adrian Camm, the 80lb camera is harnessed around his waist and provides ground shots and pictures closer than any fixed position. Adrian walks around 5 miles a day with the camera, and loses 12lb in bodyweight through the three days.
Festival Radio, Television, Notice Board & Internet
Cheltenham is one of a number of major sports events to boast its own radio station. Festival Radio broadcasts within a five-mile radius of the Racecourse from 10:00am to 7:00pm and features news previews and features, race reports and commentaries, traffic updates, replays, reviews and form on frequency 87.7FM. Festival radio is also available on www.cheltenham.co.uk including commentaries of all 24 races.
In addition The Festival TV transmits from 11:00am on the Racecourse's CCTV leading into Channel Four's coverage of the meeting which commences at 1:30pm each day and reaches an audience of 1.8 million, over 26% of the daytime audience.
In 2005 The Festival coverage will be beamed into more overseas countries than ever before.
In 2005 Cheltenham received 16 hours of terrestrial television coverage from Channel 4 excluding other transmissions from a further 25 television and documentary crews and representatives from over 160 British and Irish-based radio stations. Approximately 180 photographers and over 500 members of the press are accredited to provide coverage of The Festival.
The majority of racegoers travel to Cheltenham by car and the racecourse has the capacity to park 14,000 cars and 350 coaches per day. Typically 30,000 cars, 1,000 mini coaches and 1,000 coaches arrive and depart during the meeting along with 250 helicopter movements. Over 8,000 people will travel by train each March to Cheltenham. There are three specially chartered trains from main line London stations, and a steam train-the Paddy Power Flyer-which brings racegoers in the final 8 miles from Toddington Station, north of Winchcombe. Both First Great Western and Virgin Trains put on additional trains to accommodate the racegoing traffic.
An increasingly popular means of travel is the stretch limousine. 2005 saw numbers reach 35 per day, and special parking has to be allocated to prevent them grounding! Another unique and extraordinary mode of transport for 2005 was the rickshaw.
During The Festival, racecourse caterers Letheby & Christopher will serve 18,000 bottles of champagne, 125,000 pints of lager and 170,000 pints of Guinness, Ireland's national drink, a further 30,000 bottles of beer, 70,000 bottles of minerals, 8,000 gallons of tea and coffee, three tonnes of smoked salmon, 46,000 bread rolls, 20,000 portions of chips, 25,000 beef burgers and hot dogs, 50,000 rounds of sandwiches and a further 14,000 packed lunches for staff.
The Tented Village alone will house between 6,000 - 8,000 guests each day and 100 private boxes in the Grandstand will cater for a further 2,000 guests, generating a total of 36,000 hot meals during the four days.
In addition 15 miles of construction materials will be erected for the three days.
The Irish Influence
The Irish influence at Cheltenham continues to grow each season at not only The Festival but also The Open Meeting in November. Kicking King won the 2005 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup and was the first Irish-trained horse to do so since Imperial Call in 1996. The Irish accounted for nine Festival winners in 2005. They sent out seven winners over three days in both 1996 and 1977 while there were eight successes in 1958 when novice races were divided.
Over 7,000 racegoers travel over from Ireland for The Festival and it is estimated that up to 20% of the entire crowd are of Irish origin. Once again this year, St Patrick's Day falls during the meeting on Friday, March 17.
Ireland has long been associated with some of the most successful riders with many of Britain's top 10 jockeys hailing from across the Irish Sea - including Tony McCoy, Tony Dobbin, Mick Fitzgerald, Graham Lee, Ruby Walsh and Timmy Murphy.
Cheltenham's Top Festival Trainers
The late Fulke Walwyn is still far the most successful Festival trainer with 40 winners gained over a 40-year period. His nearest rival is record breaking trainer Martin Pipe who has saddled 34 winners since 1981 with Nicky Henderson following closely behind with 28 winners since 1985. Fred Winter trained 28 winners and Tom Dreaper trained 26. Howard Johnson was The Festival's leading trainer in 2005, with three winners.
Cheltenham's Top Riders
Richard Dunwoody is the only jockey to have ridden over 100 winners at Cheltenham, 109 in total. Other prolific riders include Peter Scudamore (94), John Francome (71), Fred Winter (67) and Terry Biddlecombe (60).
Tony McCoy unsurprisingly heads the list of current jockeys riding in terms of Festival winners, albeit that The Festival has not been kind to him in recent years. With 15 victories, McCoy leads his nearest rival Mick Fitzgerald by three and Richard Johnson by four. Barry Geraghty follows up with nine winners with Ruby Walsh on eight.
The Racing Post will present a perpetual trophy for the leading rider and trainer together with a cheque for £2,000 to a charity of the jockey's choice and to the stable staff of the winning trainer.
Trade Stands & Entertainment
A day at The Festival is not just about the 24 races which are the most hotly contested in the entire racing calendar. There are a variety of other attractions including 70 trade stands selling everything from bags, binoculars and bronzes to wine and wicker baskets, suits and silver jewellery.
Live music around enclosures and after racing in the Centaur
Qualifying heats for Greyhound Races take place at Cheltenham on 11th & 12th March
Book Signings at the Arkle Book Shop - Over the course of the four days signings will be made in the Arkle Bookshop by Sir Peter O'Sullevan, Lester Piggott, Jacqueline O'Brien, Jenny Pitman, Sean Magee, Jessica Harrington, Henrietta Knight, Marcus Armytage, Stewart Peters and Ginger McCain.
THE FESTIVAL 2006 - ORDER OF RUNNING
First Day - Tuesday, March 14 (Old Course)
Time Race Distance Total Prize Fund
* 2.00pm Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 110yds £100,000
* 2.35pm Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) 2m £140,000
* 3.15pm Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) 2m 110yds £340,000
* 4.00pm William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 110yds £80,000
4.40pm Sporting Index Cross Country Handicap Chase 3m 7f £80,000
5.20pm Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) 2m 110yds £75,000
Second Day - Wednesday, March 15 (Old Course)
Time Race Distance Total Prize Fund
* 2.00pm Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 5f £100,000
* 2.35pm Royal & SunAlliance Chase (Grade 1) 3m 110yds £140,000
* 3.15pm Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) 2m £290,000
* 4.00pm Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 5f £75,000
4.40pm Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateur Riders) 3m 110yds £50,000
5.20pm Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1) 2m 110yds £40,000
Third Day - Thursday, March 16 (New Course)
Time Race Distance Total Prize Fund
* 2.00pm Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase (Listed Race) 2m 5f £80,000
* 2.35pm Ryanair Chase (Grade 2) 2m 5f £150,000
* 3.15pm Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m £230,000
* 4.00pm Racing Post Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m 5f £75,000
4.40pm Letheby & Christopher National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup (Amateur Riders Novices’ Chase) 4m 1f £50,000
5.20pm Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) 3m £60,000
Fourth Day - Friday, March 17 (New Course)
Time Race Distance Total Prize Fund
* 2.00pm JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f £100,000
* 2.35pm Brit Insurance Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) 3m £75,000
* 3.15pm totesport Cheltenham Gold (Grade 1) 3m 2f 110yds £400,000
* 4.00pm Christie's Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup 3m 2f 110yds £40,000
4.40pm Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase Challenge Cup (Grade 3) 2m 110yds £75,000
5.20pm Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 1f £65,000