With the dust settled on the Cheltenham Festival, an increasingly negative view of the general state of the meeting has become clear among racing fans and media.

Total attendance figures for the four days were down by over 11,000 with the pricing of the tickets, coupled with rising accommodation costs in the vicinity of the track and town, pointed to as the most likely deterrents. Alcohol and car park prices have also brought The Jockey Club, owners of Cheltenham Racecourse, in for criticism.

Frozen prices

Prices for next year’s festival have been frozen, so it will still cost £86 (€100) for a club enclosure ticket – the most popular choice for punters – for the first three days and £102 (€119) on Gold Cup Day (Friday). Accommodation costs are unlikely to come down either, with some hotels reportedly increasing their rates by 700% for festival week versus standard rates for the rest of the year.

Ian Renton, the Jockey Club’s managing director, has largely pointed to a cost of living crisis, but plenty of punters were more than happy to spend the same amount of money to go abroad to watch the racing in sunshine, with Racing Post reporting that growing trend this week.

Aside from costs, the bigger concern for many is the action on the track. Willie Mullins dominated proceedings again with nine winners while there was a record seven odds-on favourites sent off which speaks for uncompetitive racing.

Over the last decade or so, races like the Mares Hurdle, Mares Novices’ Hurdle and Turners Novice Chase have bloated the programme at Cheltenham which has led to less competitive racing. A good example at this year’s festival was that of Lossiemouth, who cantered away to win the Mares Hurdle at an odds-on price, when she could have gone for a Champion Hurdle and added a significant amount to that contest, which was won by the odds-on State Man.

The festival was somewhat saved by a sensational Gold Cup won for the second time in a row by Galopin Des Champs, who oozed class as he saw off Gerri Colombe. Willie Mullins’ chaser will now come back to Punchestown to attempt a unique Gold Cup treble having taken the Irish Gold Cup earlier this term at Leopardstown.