GOODWOOD has succeeded in attracting some leading Derby and Oaks contenders to its May Festival, which starts today.
The Downs will be the backdrop for a listed race today and another tomorrow which should give race-goers some clear pointers towards the big races at Epsom in a fortnight.
It’s exactly the calibre of entries Goodwood has been aiming to lure to its three-day programme, which benefits this year from being two weeks before Epsom instead of just a week.
Today’s highlight is the £40,000 Bibendum Height of Fashion Stakes (4.25pm), seen by many as a trial for the Oaks.
Trainer Luca Cumani will saddle Jordan Princess in the contest. Jordan Princess was second to Oaks favourite Taghrooda in the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket on May 4, beaten by six lengths.
Cumani said: “It was a good run behind Taghrooda considering it was her first start of the year and hopefully she will have improved for that.”
Jordan Princess holds entries in the Oaks at Epsom Downs and the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot. Andrea Atzeni, in the saddle for all three of her outings, will ride Jordan Princess.
The Bibendum Height of Fashion Stakes, first run in 2007, has produced some high-class performers, most notably six-time Group 1 scorer Snow Fairy, who won in 2010 before going on to win the Oaks.
Entries for this year’s renewal also include Godolphin’s Group 3 UAE Oaks runner-up Feedyah (trained by Charlie Appleby), while Listed Cheshire Oaks second Secret Pursuit (Marcus Tregoning) is also engaged.
Trainer Charlton is set to put his Derby hopeful Observational through his paces in the Casco Ebf Stallions Cocked Hat Stakes on Friday (4pm).
Charlton won the Derby with Quest For Fame in 1990 in his first season with a training licence. Since then he has had only one other runner in the race, and that was in 1996.
Observational will be up against ten rivals for the £40,000 contest, with Richard Hannon’s Barley Mow and Luca Cumani’s Postponed among them.
Cumani’s Postponed, who also holds a Derby entry, will be chasing his first victory of 2014 in a race which has been a pointer to future stars with recent winners Rewilding (2010) and Masked Marvel (2011) going on to record Group 1 wins.
The son of Dubawi was third to Toormore in the mile Group Three Craven Stakes at Newmarket on April 17 before finishing fourth to Barley Mow in the Listed Newmarket Stakes over ten furlongs at the same course on May 3.
Cumani said: “Both his runs have been quite good this year without collecting, but we still think there is more to come from him.”
John Gosden-trained pair Cloudscape and Marzocco will be others to watch in the Cocked Hat contest.
The May Festival ends on Saturday when a seven-race card is headlined by a pair of £40,000 listed contests for older horses, the 32Red Casino Stakes (1.50pm) over just short of ten furlongs and the 12-furlong 32Red Stakes (2.20pm).
The richest race of the festival is Saturday’s £50,000 32Red.com Handicap (2.55pm) over seven furlongs.
For tickets, call 01243 755055 or see www.goodwood.com
Observer sports editor Steve Bone’s tips for Thursday: 210 Estidhkaar, 240 Gothic, 315 Presto Volante, 350 Magic City, 425 Feedyah, 500 Altaayil, 535 Perfect Muse.