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Racegoers drink pints from paper cups in Cheltenham
By James Stevens and Lewis Porteous
Soaring drink prices at Cheltenham shocked many racing fans at the first meeting of the season at the track, where a pint of Guinness cost £7.50.
It was 50p more than at the festival and is believed to be comfortably the most expensive pint at a UK racecourse. Aspall Suffolk Cyder was also £7.50, while Pravha Lager was priced at £7.40. Racegoers were also less than impressed to see their drinks served in paper cups as part of the track’s sustainability efforts.
Cheltenham defended the price hikes, saying they were due to “the current rise in inflation” and prices were comparable to other major sports venues.
Sandown, which like Cheltenham is operated by the Jockey Club, was charging £6.80 for a pint of Pravha and the same for Guinness in May. At Royal Ascot in June, lager was £6.50 and Guinness £6.80.
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The price increases were talked about on social media during the two-day meeting, with one attendee describing them as “outrageous” on Twitter. On Saturday, annual members and racing fans expressed similar opinions, just days after rejoicing at the news that the festival would not be extended for another five days.
Ashley Jones, from Kidderminster, paid £430 for her annual subscription and said: ‘Prices were too expensive years ago and it keeps going up. It’s gotten to the point where you need a very good day with lots of winners just to cover If there are four of you you pay £30 for a game.
“Were [annual] members and we have mentioned the prices in the consultation of the festival. The thing is, we’re not getting the best experience. We look forward to a day out at Cheltenham all year round and want to keep coming, but feel like we’ve been turned around. We are their loyal customers, they should take care of us.”
Alan Ramsden, from Birmingham, is also a member and said: “It’s expensive now, especially looking at what you’d pay elsewhere. You pay it because you want to have a good time, but it’s a bit too much – especially when it’s in a paper cup.”
The mood was similar on social media, with Andrew Halligan tweeting: “Cheltenham, do yourself a favor, lower the fucking prices, it’s quite expensive to go to Cheltenham and give someone a pint of Guinness in a paper cup…are you having a laugh.”
Another Twitter user added: “A pint of Guinness in Cheltenham yesterday £7.50 and a paper cup in the members lounge. Absolutely outrageous.”
Other racing enthusiasts have taken a more philosophical view of rising prices. “Prices have gone up for everything now, but should 50p ruin your day at Cheltenham?” said Martin Bowen of Shrewsbury. “We go racing every week, we have horses with the owners group and we love coming to Cheltenham.”
Dave Goss from Swindon said: “I don’t mind paying, to be honest. Cheltenham is a premium place and so you expect to pay more. What happens happens and we all know things are more expensive now.”
A Cheltenham spokesman said: “We are working hard to absorb inflationary costs wherever we can. However, the current rise in inflation relative to goods and labor in today’s society has led to higher prices of some of the items we serve.
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Racegoers line up for food at Cheltenham
“Despite this, our prices are comparable to other major sports and entertainment venues.”
Cheltenham chief executive Ian Renton also addressed racing fans’ dissatisfaction with paper cups on ITV’s opening show on Saturday morning.
He said: “I have been at the Jockey Club for ten years which coincided with the start of our ‘Going Green’ programme. During this time we have halved our carbon emissions and aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2027.
“We wanted to use the start of this meeting to show some of the things we do. Yesterday we tested paper cups for pints and half pints, it’s probably fair to say to the mixed reviews, but it Reducing the use of single-use plastic is so important to us to reduce our energy use and reduce waste, so it’s part of a program.”
Royal Ascot: £6.80
Newmarket (July class): £6.75
Newmarket (Rowley Mile): £6.75
* Over the past four months The Racing Post has collected details of the cost of racing at UK and Irish tracks. Some tracks not having run during this period, the list is not exhaustive. You can see the full list here.
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