At last – Glorious Goodwood is here. And we can’t wait to open the gates tomorrow (Tuesday) to herald the start of a fabulous week of racing.
The festival never disappoints but this year’s really does promise a feast of top-quality flat racing, with some fascinating contests throughout the five days.
We can’t be sure what the weather will do but it seems likely that the nightmare summer we have had so far won’t return. Some forecasts are talking of dry days and warm sunshine – others mention showers. But we are keeping everything crossed that the long-overdue summer we’ve seen of late will continue.
Much of the attention has been on Frankel and rightly so – he’s a one-off and it’s clear to see why everyone wants to see him.
We’re fortunate to be welcoming Frankel and his connections back for a second year. It’s the first time he’s defended a title and all the signs are that where our Wednesday crowd was massively up on the norm last year, this year it will be bigger again.
Frankel’s bound to be hugely odds-on but I’d rather have a field of six with Frankel than a field of 12 without him.
Can anyone make a race of it? Godolphin have supplemented Farhh, although Excelebration probably won’t run. I’m hoping we’ll see one or two good three-year-olds take on Sir Henry Cecil’s champion.
QIPCO’s announcement they’ll sponsor the Sussex Stakes at least until 2017 is a major boost. QIPCO and their Champions’ Series have been fantastic for racing and we’re a key part – the mid-point in a series that starts with the 2000 Guineas and ends with Ascot’s Champions’ Day. But it’s important that Frankel doesn’t take all the limelight. We have great fields for all the big races.
The first day includes the Lennox Stakes, the Gordon Stakes and the Molecomb Stakes, Thursday brings the Goodwood Cup, Friday the Betfred Mile and Saturday our other Group 1, the Nassau, and the wonderful spectacle that is the Stewards’ Cup.
The Richard Hughes-Richard Hannon partnership went without a winner at Royal Ascot this year but will still be ones to watch at Glorious. They’re still our leading jockey and trainer respectively this season and they’ll have plenty of contenders next week.
Ticket sales are where they were this time last year, but the signs are good.
And in difficult economic times for everyone, hospitality and sponsorship have held up.
Our race programmes for the five days will pick out five great renewals of the Goodwood Cup to celebrate the 200th anniversary. We’ve also invited a host of past winners of the Cup.
Elsewhere, we have some new bars and restaurant areas for everyone to enjoy. We’ll have music playing and the bars staying open after each day’s racing – it worked well last year, lengthening the day for many and easing the rate at which the car parks need to empty.
One other new addition is that I’ll be putting my reputation (if I have one) on the line by taking part in the daily tipping competition on the Observer website, www.chichester.co.uk - don’t take my word for anything!
I’ll also be doing this column during the festival and afterwards. Until then, happy racing!