Cheltenham have knocked back speculation over a fifth day being added to the festival following rumors that the tournament organizers were open to the idea.
The prestigious event has gone from a three-day affair to a four-day spectacle over the years, something that was met with criticism at first, according to new chairman Martin St Quinton. And following a news column in which Alan King claimed that he had warmed to the notion of a five-day festival after a “long chat” with the St Quinton, rumours over a schedule change spread rather quickly.
However, on Wednesday, a Cheltenham spokesperson assured that there are no plans to supplement the festival with another day or change it from a Tuesday-to-Friday race to a Wednesday-to-Saturday event, as had also been suggested in King’s column.
His weekly Racing Post’s Weekender piece claimed St Quinton had argued that changing the format would attract a different crowd. It was also reported that either the Ryanair Chase or Stayers’ Hurdle would be moved from its Thursday slot to highlight the additional day’s happenings.
Rumours regarding the change have been rife since the beginning of January and that St Quinton refused to rule it out during an interview with ITV racing did not help.
“It would get a lot of opposition, but people don’t like change,” he said (h/t The Guardian). “People complained when it went from three days to four, but now everybody loves the four-day Festival.
“Royal Ascot was very similar with the Heath meeting on the Saturday and now that is their most popular day, so you’ve got to be open-minded about these things.”
As mentioned above, the festival’s organizers have since quashed the suggestions with an unequivocal statement in which they’ve declared there are “no plans for a fifth day.”
“We have four fantastic days of the Festival running Tuesday to Friday,” the spokesperson reported.
Of course, Cheltenham folk aren’t against keeping an open mind; it’s good business practice. But the practicality of adding a fifth day to the festival isn’t as plain as it sounds. The inclusion of Saturday would see to a drop in the demand for corporate hospitality packages, which wouldn’t reflect well on the earnings. There’s also the fact that football and rugby in England command lots of attention in March and Saturday racing would present a conflict of interest given Cheltenham’s drawing power.
In the meantime, there are plenty of betting offers for Cheltenham 2020 available from all of the top bookmakers. Bet365 have 4/1 odds on favourite Al Boum Photo for the Gold Cup, with Kemboy in behind at 7/1 and Clan Des Obeaux at 8/1. Lostintranslation is also 8/1, with William Hill offering said odds, while Santini is 9/1 with Betfair.
The Ryanair Chase sees Defi Du Seuil leading the pack where the bookies are concerned. Ladbrokes have 4/1 going on that front and are also offering 6/1 on both A Plus Tard and Min, while Unibet have 7/1 on Clan Des Obeaux.
As for the Stayers’ Hurdle, you could snatch odds of 6/4 on Paisley Park from Paddy Power, who have 8/1 on If the Cap Fits and 9/1 on Benie Des Dieux.