Grounds for optimism as new Goodwood season begins - preview and tips

They're ready to race at Goodwood again / Picture by Malcolm Wells
They're ready to race at Goodwood again / Picture by Malcolm Wells

He’s the new boy who’s already a familiar face – and Ed Arkell can’t wait to get properly stuck into the Goodwood challenge.

Arkell begins his first season as clerk of the course at the famous venue when it hosts its season opener this Saturday. He took over from retiring Seamus Buckley, who retired last autumn, but is already someone familiar to Goodwood race-goers and colleagues. That’s because for the past decade he has helped Buckley manage the Glorious Goodwood festival.

“It’s certainly given me a head start and has helped me get to grips with the job,” said the former Sedgefield, Fontwell, Brighton, Windsor and Lingfield clerk. “Knowing the racecourse and the team has been really important – and it’s also been nice to have six months or more since starting full-time to get used to everything. Now, though, I just want the season to get going – I think we all do.”

Saturday’s season opener has a bumper number of 93 runners and has been extended to include eight races. The Daisy Warwick Stakes and Conqueror Stakes, the two listed races,will be highlights of an opening fixture which looks set to enjoy decent weather.

The racing surface is looking good for the big day –despite a wet, cold winter. Arkell said: “I’m quite keen on a hard winter – it kills the beasties and helps the turf stay healthy. It’s tended to rain at the right time though we could have done with less – it set us back in cutting the course but we have just about caught up with that now. The times when we couldn’t get out on to the course were spent attending to issues around the rest of the site.”

One of Arkell’s winter duties was to travel to a racing festival in Hong Kong to chat to owners and trainers about bringing their horses to the Qatar Goodwood Festival. “It was a good trip – the first time I’d been there – and we have made some useful contacts, though the international side of things is a long-term project,” he said.

Saturday’s curtain-raiser is followed three weeks later by the three-day May Festival which will include Derby and Oaks trials. Highlights after that include Three Friday Nights, Glorious and the August Bank Holiday Festival.

Our tips for Saturday's card: 135 Le Torrent, 205 Mori, 240 Donncha, 315 Leo Minor, 350 Nyaleti, 425 Be My Angel, 500 Embour, 535 Pepper Street.

Ed Arkell looks ahead to his new Goodwood challenge

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