4,000 down: Eclipse day attracts its lowest uncapped crowd this century | Horse Racing News

Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

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Sandown’s spectators enjoy Coral-Eclipse day in the sun

Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

By Matt Rennie

Sandown has blamed the cost of living crisis and the challenges of attracting spectators in a “post-Covid” world after Coral-Eclipse day attracted its lowest crowd outside Covid restrictions this century.

Saturday’s attendance of 9,500 was more than 4,000 down on the last Eclipse day before the pandemic, when 13,741 attended three years ago, a drop of nearly 31 per cent.

Spectators returned to the Esher track’s flagship Flat day without Covid-19 restrictions for the first time since 2019, with last year’s crowd capped, while the race was run behind closed doors in 2020.

The Sandown figure is the latest indicator of racing’s failing attendances, which dropped by over a third at British racecourses in May according to BHA figures dating back to 1995.

“It was in the region of 9,500 spectators,” a Sandown spokesperson said. “Hopefully they all enjoyed a fantastic day and the feedback we’ve had from some of them so far has been really positive.”

Mark Cranham

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Vadeni: won the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown

Vadeni: won the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown

Mark Cranham

The day drew 11,902 in 2018, 13,210 in 2017 and 13,280 in 2016. The highest attendance for the Eclipse this century was in 2011 when 18,079 watched So You Think’s win.

The spokesperson added: “We do recognise, like those working in sports and the entertainment industry, that we’re operating in a post-Covid world.

“We also recognise there is a cost of living crisis and that people have been booking holidays with more certainty too for the first time since 2019, but we’ll continue to promote the sport and experience we can offer.”

The Racing Post also revealed on Tuesday that British attendances at tracks in May averaged below 3,000 for the first time according to BHA figures since 1995, with the average attendances slumping to 2,951 compared to 4,179 for the same month in 2019.

The dwindling attendances on racecourses, which have also been hit by low field sizes, was put down to the cost of living crisis by Racecourse Association chief executive David Armstrong on Wednesday.

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