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Cheltenham Festival attendance down on day one after coronavirus uncertainty

A crowd of 60,664 watched the action on Tuesday
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The attendance on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival dropped to its lowest level since 2014 but organisers were nonetheless pleased given the uncertainty about the meeting going ahead caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

After a record first-day attendance of 67,934 last year, the crowd figure dropped to 60,664 on Tuesday, the lowest since 57,083 attended day one six years ago.

A rise in cases of coronavirus in Britain led to speculation about the meeting taking place, with more than £4.6 million traded on a Betfair Exchange market on whether it would take place. 

"We're very happy with the crowd of 60,664 considering the uncertainty of the last fortnight," said Cheltenham boss Ian Renton.

Organisers stepped up the hygiene measures ahead of the opening day, placing hand-sanitiser stations around the course, and urged anybody showing symptoms of the virus to stay at home. 

There have been more than 370 confirmed cases of the virus in Britain but on Monday the government said there was no rationale for cancelling sports events at this stage.

Italy is the worst-affected country in Europe and restrictions have been placed on non-essential travel and public gatherings in the country, with all levels of sport suspended until at least April 3. 

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We're very happy with the crowd of 60,664 considering the uncertainty of the last fortnight
E.W. Terms