Rain required: Arkell needs weather help ahead of Glorious Goodwood

From one extreme to the other.

Wednesday, 25th July 2018, 7:00 pm
Updated Monday, 30th July 2018, 10:04 am
Ed Arkell at Goodwood / Picture by Kate Shemilt

Last year, Glorious Goodwood was hit by 50mm of rain on one of its showpiece days.

This year, there’s not a been drop of the wet stuff for weeks.

And if none arrives before next Tuesday, when the five-day Qatar Goodwood Festival begins, clerk of the course Ed Arkell and his groundstaff will face a major challenge to keep the track in a condition that suits the runners.

Last year, between June 1 and July 18, 101mm of rain fell at Goodwood. This year, in the same period, just 4mm came down.

The racecourse is fortunate in having a private water supply it can call on, but as Arkell and any other clerk of the course will tell you, artificial watering is not nearly as effective as rain.

The job also adds massively to the workload of a grounds team already working flat out to get the turf and the whole site ready for its big five days.

Arkell is hoping for rain between now and Tuesday, then for dry days and perhaps showery nights throughout festival week.

Ed Arkell at Goodwood / Picture by Kate Shemilt

But forecasters are still not telling him what he wants to hear – with little chance of significant rain in the offing.

Arkell, looking forward to his first Glorious in charge since taking over from Seamus Buckley as Goodwood clerk at the end of last season, said: “The long dry spell is a real headache.

“We’ve been watering around the clock and keeping the turf in a nice condition, and we’re happy with how it is looking at the moment.

“But the chances of us starting the festival on ‘good’ ground if it doesn’t rain before Tuesday are zero.

“If we can get it on the easy side of firm I will be pleased.

“All the watering we have had to do adds a lot to the workload, although the upside is that grass on other parts of the site hasn’t been growing at all.

“If we could have something like 30mm of rain before the festival it would be fantastic.

“But if it stays like this during the week, there is the worry it will quicken up as the week goes on.

“You can only do so much watering overnight when you are racing on it every day.”

It’s a far cry from the Wednesday of last year’s festival – Qatar Sussex Stakes day – when 50mm of rain fell in 12 hours. That meant numerous horses were withdrawn as the going became heavy – and consideration was even given to racing being abandoned early.

It also gave the Goodwood staff a huge clear-up operation to complete to make sure the site was safe and the course in good nick for the following day’s Ladies’ Day.

Away from the weather forecast, Arkell is pleased with the quality and quantity of entries for all the week’s big races.

Tuesday’s highlights are the Qatar Lennox Stakes and Qatar Goodwood Cup. The Lennox has 37 entries ahead of the final two cut-off points, including Tip Two Win and Sir Dancelot.

The Goodwood Cup’s 17 entries including the reigning champ Stradivarius, Mildenberger and Call To Mind.Wednesday’s Qatar Sussex Stakes entries total 26 and include last year’s winner Here Comes When plus the likes of Without Parole and Gustav Klimt – while Expert Eye has been supplemented.

The Qatar Nassau Stakes on Thursday has drawn 18 contenders, with Urban Fox, Rhododendron and Veracious among the early favourites.Friday’s King George Qatar Stakes has 25 entries at this stage while on the same day the Unibet Golden Mile field, currently 40-strong, features Society Power, Tigre Du Terre and Curiosity.

The big contest on the final day is the Unibet Stewards’ Cup, in which Dreamfield, Bacchus and Spring Loaded could be worth backing.

Check www.chichester.co.uk for Goodwood updates.