Goodwood boss: So glad start of exciting season is here

Barefoot Lady in winning form at Newmarket last year  Picture by Mark Westley
Barefoot Lady in winning form at Newmarket last year Picture by Mark Westley

The start of our season is here and I’m pleased to report we’re ready for it, writes Goodwood racecourse MD Adam Waterworth.

This week has been completely hectic – if it hadn’t been, we’d be doing something wrong – and I think everyone at the racecourse just wants Saturday to arrive now so we can begin what should be a memorable summer.

We could have done without quite so much rain all at once but the track is looking in fine condition and hopefully it will be just right on raceday.

It’s always good to get your first meeting of the season under your belt.

There are bound to be one or two teething troubles, but hopefully they’ll be things the public won’t notice.

I used to work in jump racing where there’s not really a close season, so this has been my first full close season.

It could be tempting to do very little at the start of the autumn towards the following season, but you can’t work like that. I think we’ve been pretty steady in working through the autumn, winter and spring to reach the point where we’re ready to go.

We kick off with an excellent card on Saturday, including two listed races – the Daisy Warwick Stakes and Conqueror Stakes.

I was delighted to see Barefoot Lady, one of Richard Fahey’s top horses, who came fifth in the Nassau Stakes at the festival last year, among the entries for the Conqueror.

That’s just one entry but it bodes well for another season of the top trainers and owners giving us great support.

We have 128 entries across Saturday’s seven races, which is very healthy.

We’ll be showing the best of the action from the 2,000 Guineas meeting at Newmarket in between our races, which finish just in time for the FA Cup final, which will be on all our screens. I like to think the FA moved the kick-off time to accommodate our racing!

Beyond our first meeting there is an awful lot to look forward to – not least the rest of May, during which we stage another four meetings.

Three of those comprise the return of our May festival, which arrives on Thursday 24, Friday 25 and Saturday 26.

There’s a lot of interest building in that already.

Likewise, our Three Friday Nights, with the DJ sets after racing, and our three-day August festival, are already booking up well.

The June nights have taken off well since we announced the acts for each one – Mike Skinner, Dermot O’Leary and Groove Armada.

We felt it important to go for three different acts this year, but that’s not to say we won’t go back to one of last year’s next year.

Last year we sold out one of the three Friday nights; this year I’m hopeful we’ll sell out all three.

Generally, ticket and badge sales and corporate bookings are ahead of last year. We have two fewer meetings this year but are confident of getting as many people through the gates overall.

Looking at the season as a whole, we’re confident all the top trainers and owners will support us. We have the best grounds team and, in Seamus Buckley, the best clerk of the course in the country.

Key people in the industry trust him and trust us to make the ground the best it can be, and know also that the prize money will be good.

You wouldn’t want to look beyond Richard Hannon when asking who’ll be our top trainer for the season. He’s the champion trainer and loves sending so many of his horses here. Equally, you know Richard Hughes, his son-in-law, won’t be far away when we name the course’s leading jockey of 2012.

But we also hope the trainers on our doorstep, like William Knight, Amanda Perrett and, of course, John Dunlop, will have successful seasons. They’ll be out to give Richard a run for his money.

I think we may see more of the likes of Paul Hanagan, the champion jockey, and Silvestre De Sousa here this year because of the profile they are being given. And, of course, Frankie Dettori will be here at every opportunity!

It’s been well-chronicled that we’re hoping Frankel will take on Black Caviar in the Sussex Stakes. Black Caviar had her 20th straight win down under at the weekend and will be coming to Ascot in June.

We hope both horses are at least in the Sussex Stakes entries this month.

I think we might see Harbour Watch, a Hannon horse, in the Sussex Stakes, or even Strong Suit, who won our Lennox Stakes last year.

After I tipped last year’s St Leger winner, Masked Marvel, in this column, I should end with a tip for the 2,000 Guineas (or should I quit while ahead?).

Personally I’d oppose the favourite, Camelot. He may well win the Derby but the Guineas is a different race. The hard part is saying who’ll win instead but I think Trumpet Major is worth a look.

Adam Waterworth

Get tips, previews and reports for every Goodwood meeting this season on this website