Glorious is the word... bosses' verdict on a sun-baked week of great Goodwood racing
As everyone who was involved in the 2018 Qatar Goodwood Festival reflects on the week, Goodwood racecourse's general manager Alex Eade and clerk of the course Ed Arkell have given us their verdict.
Racecourse general manager Alex Eade says...
We can look back on the 2018 Qatar Goodwood Festival and agree: It was a really fantastic week.
I think the hot weather made for a really nice atmosphere around the racecourse, which looked at its very best.
We’ve had some big crowds and it was nice knowing in advance the weather was going to be hot. It made planning easier.
A lot of people – close to 100,000 – came racing and had a great time. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback.
The new facilities have worked well – the new champagne bar, for example, was a big success.
The racing itself was top-quality. There were some top-class performances.
Battaash’s win in Friday’s King George Qatar Stakes had to be the highlight – that was sensational.
But Stradivarius’s win in the Goodwood Cup was great too. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares at York, going for the £1m bonus which his win here has set up. It’s nice to be part of that story.
And as for Lightning Spear winning the Sussex Stakes, what a feelgood story that was as he won a Group 1 race at the 16th attempt, lovely for his trainer David Simcock.
If any horse deserved that success it was Lightning Spear and if there was any place to do it, it was Goodwood.
Ladies’ Day went very well, with the Qatar Nassau Stakes throwing up a bit of a surprise winner in Wild Illusion but still offering a quality race.
Every day had a different feel to it; every day had stand-out moments, from Tuesday through to Gifted Master’s win in the Unibet Stewards’ Cup.
Credit goes to all the people who made the week a success.
There are about 700 staff here on a raceday and whether they’re catering or cleaning up or working in security, in the stables or behind the bars, every single one of them has to be on their game. And I think they all were.
They are all people who contribute to the customers’ experience and make the raceday experience as good it can be. So far the feedback has been really, really good.
We do quite a bit of surveying and the scores suggest the customer satisfaction level has gone as high as it can go. The sunshine plays a part in that but you’ve still got to get all the other bits right.
I didn’t see a big queue at a bar all week – in fact the only long queue I saw was at the ice-cream van, which is probably not surprising!
The crowd figures on each of the first two days were down about five per cent.
I don’t think that’s a worry because over the week we picked it up – we got close to 100,000 which is what we usually get.
We’ll obviously look at it but I’m not overly worried at this stage. There’s a lot of factors – it’s been a long, hot summer and people have been going out a lot already.
In the heat, people are more lethargic about doing anything, so I think we’re suffering a bit from that. But we’ll have a review of the figures.
The benefit of the weather being so nice this year is that it will make it easier to sell tickets next year.
More of those who have come this year will come back, where as some of those who were here last year when the weather was poor may not have returned this year.
As far as hopes of international runners are concerned, we were unlucky with the American entries – they just didn’t work out.
We had a lot more French horses this time, although the Australian horse didn’t come.
It’s a very important target for us and in that respect the sale of racehorses we held after racing on Wednesday worked out very well.
One was sold to Singapore, one to Hong Kong, one to Australia, so that’s helping us with the international appeal and reaching that audience.
I think the sale is something we’ll do again.
Now, though, we’re already well into beginning to think about the August Bank Holiday meeting, our next fixture. We don’t stop!
Hopefully we’ll see many of you back over that bank holiday, when we stage some top-class racing on Friday night and Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
It’s always sad when a meeting is over, and all in all it was a very good week.
The weather was very kind to us. We got the rain we needed before we started and that got us set up spot-on for the week.
I think it was about the right amount of rain. We were racing on quick ground by the end of the festival – it was proper quick ground but it was perfectly safe – and we didn’t race on anything too soft at the start of the week.
Everybody (jockeys, trainers, etc) was very happy with the ground.
It was my first festival week as clerk of the course.
Obviously I knew from having assisted Seamus (Buckley) at previous festivals what to expect.
But it’s always different when the buck really does stop with you rather than someone you’re working with.
We had some amazing racing, some cracking finishes.
We had some great stories like Stradivarius, Lightning Spear, Lil Rockerfeller.
I think it’s lovely that you see some of the small yards like Ron Harris having winners, and George Baker having a 125/1 winner.
That’s what is so great about this meeting – the smaller yards have a chance to run in races and be competitive.
Battaash is one winner everyone is talking about but an interesting horse, I think, is the one that won the Gordon Stakes, Cross Counter.
He beat the track record, went all the way clear and William Buick was very impressed. That could be a very special horse.
We’re thinking about the August Bank Holiday meeting now.
We had someone in the day after the final day of the festival starting the watering, just to help the track recover.
We’ll give it a roll, a spike and a bit of a feed and plenty of water and let it do its thing.
The racecourse has had 450 horses running along it over the festival and needs a little bit of TLC.
If you think, it’s 450 multiplied by four hooves, going both ways as well, it mounts up.
Our ideal between now and the bank holiday is for it to be warm and sunny with some rain. You’d love it to be warm and sunny during the day with 5mm of rain every night.
That would keep it in very nice condition.