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'It's a sign of the times' - crowds drop at five of six tracks on Super Saturday

Newmarket: around 11,500 attended the July Cup day fixture on Saturday
Newmarket: around 11,500 attended the July Cup day fixture on SaturdayCredit: Edward Whitaker

Attendances were down at five of the six racecourses on Super Saturday in Britain compared to the last time crowds were unrestricted in 2019.

Only Salisbury's evening meeting bucked the trend as attendances dropped by 13.9 per cent across the day, reflecting the trend of falling crowds in the sport.

The weekend is typically one of the busiest for British racecourses, with Group-race action from Ascot and York supplementing the final day of the July meeting at Newmarket. Chester also staged one of its most popular fixtures, while Salisbury and Hamilton raced in the evening.

Newton Abbot was the sole venue in 2019 not to feature this weekend, but the same six meetings attracted almost 86,966 spectators on a similarly warm and sunny day in the pre-pandemic year, in comparison to 74,684 on Saturday.

A 26 per cent decline at Ascot was the steepest, with a decrease of 4,000-plus spectators for a seven-race card which featured the Group 2 Summer Mile. Chester reported a drop of more than 5,000 racegoers, while 11,500 witnessed Alcohol Free's July Cup success at Newmarket, compared to more than 13,000 three years ago.

York attracted the biggest crowd and only a slight decrease, with an estimated 26,500 on course for the historic John Smith's Cup. A spokesperson for the track said: "We're grateful for the support of Yorkshire racegoers. At the 63rd time of asking they were rewarded with another day of exciting racing in glorious weather."

York: over 26,000 were on the Knavesmire for the John Smith's Cup
York: over 26,000 were on the Knavesmire for the John Smith's CupCredit: John Grossick (

Hamilton is experiencing a general 15 per cent decrease on attendances at all fixtures and were disappointed by the weekend's turnout, which was 1,500 down on the anticipated crowd of 5,000.

Clerk of the course Harriet Graham said: "It was a beautiful night, with lots of children's entertainment and music on afterwards. It was a really good day but I think it's just a sign of the times. There was no reason not to come, it's the way things are now.

"We struggle to get runners and struggle to get people to watch, it's a bit worrying. We water well, put on good prize-money and it's a lovely place for the stable staff. We try everything we can do."

Salisbury was the only track to report a bigger attendance than in 2019, with the first full ladies' evening since the pandemic, in addition to a post-racing concert from an Abba tribute band, leading to a 22 per cent increase and the course's biggest crowd in five years.

"The first fixtures were down, probably about 20 per cent, but ladies' evening is like our Derby day," said Jeremy Martin, the track's clerk of the course.

"We were very pleased, there was a real buzz and they gave the horses a good cheer as the horses entered the final furlong. It felt like Cheltenham, it made one's hair stand up, which is rare for a small track like us."

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James StevensWest Country correspondent

Published on 10 July 2022inNews

Last updated 17:05, 10 July 2022