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For five days every summer, the eyes of the racing world turn to the picturesque West Sussex track, unquestionably one of the prettiest courses in the country if not the world. Racing has been active on the Goodwood estate since 1802 when Charles Lennox, the third Duke of Richmond established the course. In 1906, King Edward VII shook the fashion world by dispensing with the famous top hat and tails (still an important part of Royal Ascot) in favour of a linen suit and panama hat. A panama has been the quintessential Goodwood races fashion ever since and it is considered poor etiquette in smart circles to wear a panama hat before Glorious Goodwood!
While Goodwood is often thought of as a rather more casual Royal Ascot, the level of horse on show has always been of an impressive quality. The Sussex Stakes on the Wednesday is the traditional feature of the meeting, seeing the best milers in Europe going head to head. The races history reads like a who’s who of stars through the years with Giant’s Causeway, Rock Of Gibraltar and Solow just some of the names to have etched themselves in history with triumph here. First run in 1878, there has only ever been one horse to have won the race twice, the mighty Frankel!
The Goodwood Cup may be a Group 2 in name but Yeats, Kayf Tara, Royal Rebel, Double Trigger and Persian Punch have ensured that the contest, while the level below the Ascot Gold Cup, has lacked nothing in quality. The last named, when triumphant in the two mile contest in 2003, a particularly poignant one for all racegoers as one of the most popular horses at the time. David Elsworth’s 10 year old looked beaten when he was headed a quarter mile from home but he dug deep to force his head back in front, fending off Jardines Lookout by a short head in one of the most pulsating finishes in the history of the meeting.
A favourite for punters and bookies alike is the 6f cavalry charge on the final day, the Stewards Cup. With the Wokingham at Royal Ascot and the Ayr Gold Cup in Septemner, it is one of the most hotly contested sprints of the season. Won last year by the now Group 1 performer Magical Memory, it is a race that has been won by one of the more fancied horses in recent years, with four of the last five winners all going off at single figure prices.
Mark Johnston is well known to target this meeting on a yearly basis but trying to decipher which of his many entrants are the ones to follow is one of the biggest puzzles of the week. Johnston is 40 winners from 233 runners in the last five seasons at Goodwood (not specifically this meeting) for a level stakes profit of +£104! Lumiere could be his feature runner of the week in the opening day’s Lennox Stakes but having only run at Newmarket recently, her participation is not as yet confirmed. He is likely to have a plethora of handicap options and don’t be surprised if they run more than once at the meeting, a winning tactic for the yard in the past.
Charlie Appleby means business when he sends runners to Goodwood. Appleby boasts a frankly ridiculous five winners from just seven runners at the track in 2016 so anything that represents the Godolphin handler here must get maximum respect. Baccarat is a high class sprinter at his best and if taking up an entry in the Stewards Cup would be a very interesting runner for the yard at a decent price.
William Buick will be kicking himself for his French misdemeanour as there are few who ride this quirky track better than he. A 30 day ban however rules him out of the meeting and a chance to team up with the Appleby yard. A jockey who flies under a lot of radars is Pat Cosgrave, a 6/24 strike rate at the track in 2015 for a +£15.50 level stake profit is eyecatching. Willie Haggas who will provide Cosgrave plenty of rides has a 25% strike rate at Goodwood in the last five years so this team should be watched closely over the meeting.
Goodwood is a proper rollercoaster for horse and jockey alike. The sprint track is predominately downhill in the early stages while the round course has a sharp turn into the straight and with the camber running away from the stands towards the far side rail, it isn’t generally a track for a big galloping type. Horses with form at other ‘switchback’ tracks like Epsom and Brighton do well at Goodwood as well as Beverley which is similarly undulating and constantly on the turn.
A low draw can be handy on the round course if on a prominent racer. Finding ground on the rails late on in races at Goodwood even with a cut away in place opening up fresh ground can be difficult so a hold up horse drawn low can often struggle for a run. Hard luck stories are commonplace so although you probably don’t want to be very high over 7f or a mile, a draw slightly wider is preferred if held up, low on a point and shoot type. There is a slight right hand kink in the straight at Goodwood so low tends to be the place to be on the straight course unless the ground is soft. The draw is not as important as being drawn chasing the pace so it is important to know where the front runners in the big fields on the straight course such as the Stewards Cup.
Opinions were split in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, was it a great ride by Frankie Dettori on the winner Galileo Gold, a mistimed ride by Ryan Moore on The Gurkha or a combination of the pair? The two horses are set to do battle again on Wednesday in the Sussex Stakes in what looks like being one of the races of the week. The sharper mile might not play to the strengths of The Gurkha who was stepped up in trip to take in the Eclipse at Sandown. It will be very interesting to see if more use is made of him to try and make this as much of a test at a mile as possible.
Big Orange followed up a win in Newmarket’s Princess of Wales’s Stakes with a victory in the Goodwood Cup in 2015. Having won the same Newmarket contest at the July meeting this year, he arrives at Goodwood looking to complete his second double of July. He is a tough horse to pass when the jockey gets the fractions right out in front (as James McDonald showed to perfection last time out) and connections will undoubtedly be looking forward to another trip to the South coast.
Profitable is entered back down at 5f in the Friday feature after a step up to 6f failed to reap dividends in the July Cup. He may be taken on by Magical Memory who has form on Goodwood’s sprint track and for whom a step back to 5f could be the key to unlocking further improvement given the way he travels in his races. Marsha receives plenty of weight as a three year old filly which could bring her into the reckoning as the pace of this contest should allow her to settle better into a rhythm.
Minding is very short already in the betting for the Nassau Stakes with the 10f Group 1 looking to be at her mercy. She has proved herself on a similar track at Epsom when winning the Oaks and although she stays that mile and a half trip, it looks more likely that this 10f is going to prove her optimum. She may not be a backable price to many but her presence at the meeting is going to be a great draw for the racing public and another winning display is going to cement her position as the best of her generation.