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With footfall expected to increase this year, is it time to place your bet on Newbury Racecourse?


As the curtain-opener for the British racing season, the Cheltenham Festival, ended going into the St. Patrick’s Day weekend with another procession of Irish winners, (18 of 27 races were won by Irish handlers at this year’s Festival), British racing is having a hard introspective look at itself as attendance for the event plummeted and British trainers were shown to be out-of-the-money. 

Subsequently, the Cheltenham Festival slashed prices for next year’s event by 21% on Monday (18th March) and cut its car parking fees to GBP20 a day, in order to counteract a fall of 11,000 in attendances compared to 2023. As to what to do about Irish dominance – maybe a steward’s enquiry should be called as to why British trainers are so far behind their Irish counterparts. Surely Brexit can’t be affecting even this sport?

Cheltenham’s day in the sun (well actually rain) has now passed for another year, and racegoers are looking towards the season’s other blue ribband events, Royal Ascot, the National, the Derby, the Gold Cup and the King George VI Chase, and racing continues elsewhere until the end of the year.

The much-beloved racecourse, Newbury, managed by Aquis-listed Newbury Racecourse [AQSE:NYR] which hosts the winter meeting, the Gold Cup, and two races meetings a month throughout the calendar offers a much more accessible entry level to the sport.

Newbury Racecourse is a multi-use events site

But Newbury does not just welcome horses, their jockeys and an army of punters every year, it also has a vibrant schedule of live music events throughout the year, with the likes of Olly Murs, Tom Jones and Jess Glynne having played at the racecourse in the past.

As well as first-class racing, the venue is also used for conferences and trade shows, weddings and is a popular outside location for filmmakers. The racecourse is close to the Lambourn Training Centre, a horse racing centre of excellence for National Hunt hopefuls, so is a good testing-ground for ambitious, future British champions, climbing up the ladder through the numerous Group 2 and Group 3 flat races that Newbury Racecourse hosts.

It looks like 2024 will be a tough year for racing in the UK as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite. At last call, in Newbury Racecourse’s results for the six months to end-June 2023, published in September, the racecourse and events operator had a challenging first-half.

Footfall expected to increase in 2024

Although statutory turnover was up 3% year-on-year to around GBP8m, the racecourse reported a switch from a consolidated profit of GBP220,000 to a loss of GBP570,000 y-o-y. This came on the back of a fall in raceday attendance from 55,133 in 1H22 to 43,015, down 19%. However, Newbury was forced to abandon one meeting in January 2023 due to inclement weather.

The company was also hit by inflation in utilities, business rates and prize money, which all contributed to an increased cost base. That said, away from the racing, and after a resumption of normality post-Covid, its concerts, Party in the Paddock, saw an increase in entertainment footfall, up to 92,725 visitors. The footfall for racing should increase too, as eleven of the racecourse’s 28 meetings were upgraded to Premier status, meaning that the prize money would increase and it will attract higher-profile riders, which should attract greater crowds.

The racecourse also invested in its facilities, extending the Rocking Horse Nursery’s capacity by 22%, investing GBP1.1m and upgrading its Hampshire Stand and Hennessy Restaurant, investing GBP1.5m.

Chairman, Dominic Burke said: “With the headwinds facing the racing industry the remainder of the year will be challenging but we remain even more confident in the long-term prospects of the company, given the full effect of the new media rights agreement from 1 January next year, along with being able to host eleven BHA Premier fixtures during 2024.”

The newly installed chief executive, local boy Shaun Hinds, appointed in December, brings a wealth of experience with him from the events and travel industries. One of the many things Hinds will be looking to address is the current share price of the racecourse. Opening the week at 575p, Newbury Racecourse’s shares have been in a bit of a slump since the start of the year and are 25% behind where they were one-year ago. That said the share price is near its lowest point (540p) of the past year and has room to move upwards, having traded as high as 805p in the last twelve-months.

The gambling and gaming market has been very active over the last four years, with a reasonable portion of that in turf betting. This augurs greater prize money and more sponsorship opportunities which should see more buoyant times for Newbury Racecourse as a rising tide lifts all boats. Could now be the time to place a bet on Newbury Racecourse?

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This article does not constitute investment advice. Make sure you do your own research or consult a professional advisor.

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