Goodwood’s August bank holiday festival is growing stronger by the year – and will benefit from another big meeting’s move to be even better next year.
So predicts racecourse managing director Adam Waterworth as he reflects on three days of racing on the Downs that drew close to 30,000 people.
This was the third year of Goodwood staging fixtures on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the holiday weekend and it was the most successful yet. And next year, there’ll be no Saturday clash with the big Ebor meeting at York.
The festival’s racing headline was the Doom Bar Celebration Mile, won by the Mark Johnston-trained 9/2 contender Bow Creek – as tipped on the Observer website – but that was just one of many highlights on and off the track over the weekend.
Friday-night fireworks and rock’n’roll music, sideshows on the theme of 1950s-style seaside holidays and some thrilling finishes on the racecourse all made it a successful event.
Waterworth vowed the August festival would be back next year.
“The plan is to do the May Festival again across Thursday, Friday and Saturday – that one’s grown and grown over the past few years – and we’ll be certainly be doing this festival again,” he said.
“At the moment I see no reason to make major changes. We’ll repeat the fireworks. and I think the whole idea of turning into a holiday weekend for all the family is really starting to build.
“We’ll look at the racing and see if we can build the quality a little bit. One thing that will be better next year is that we won’t clash with York’s Ebor meeting, which moves a week earlier for 2015. That will really help our festival on the Saturday.
“We have stood up to that clash quite well but that will massively help. It means on the Saturday, ours will be the feature race meeting of the day in the whole country.”
Goodwood bosses felt the beauty of the festival was that each day had a different atmosphere.
Waterworth said: “These sort of things always take a bit of time to get established but the Friday night worked a lot better. We added the fireworks this year and all the feedback we’ve had is that they were spectacular.
“We had a really good crowd of 7,000 in and were pleased by the number who stayed on for the fireworks. In past years the Friday has been a bit gloomy and quite quiet – almost a damp start to the three days. But this time, with the help of the weather, Friday launched the weekend.
“With the rock’n’roll music and the paraglider as well, there was more for people to watch. And I think that evening will grow and grow.”
Waterworth added: “The Saturday is more about the racing. We do have all the family entertainment and there were a lot of families here, which was great to see. But the racing takes centre stage.
“We were pleased with the Celebration Mile. It was good to see Mark Johnston, who always supports us really well, get the Group 2 win with Bow Creek in that race, and he won the big handicap as well with Almargo.
“It was a good day all round. The Prestige Stakes was won by what looks a decent horse (Malabar) of Mick Channon’s, which could go on.
“It was a really good day’s racing and the crowd was very strong – 11,000 – which is the sort of number we love to see for these days, and then Sunday’s crowd was even bigger, 11,500.
“Sunday had a different feel again. It was good racing for a Sunday. The Group 3 – the Supreme Stakes – was an excellent race and it was nice to see a team come over from Ireland to win it. But Sunday was more of a family day and the Lennox Enclosure was absolutely rammed.
“Walking round all weekend, the atmosphere was great and there were lots of people with smiles on their faces.”
Racing highlight on the opening night came in the form of a feature-race win made in Sussex as Saucy Minx, ridden, trained and owned by people from the county, won the Breeders Backing Racing EBF Fillies’ handicap at 10/1. Jim Crowley was on board for Pulborough trainer Amanda Perrett.
Champion jockey Richard Hughes flew in from York – where he had won the top race of the day, the Nunthorpe Stakes, in sensational fashion – to land the Chichester City Stakes on Frederic Chopin.
His efforts were followed by a chilly drenching as he accepted top jump jockey Tony McCoy’s ice-bucket challenge – before nominating TV racing presenter Rishi Persad, who underwent the ritual at Goodwood the next day.
Alongside the Doom Bar Celebration Mile on Saturday were the Group 3 Whiteley Clinic Prestige Stakes, which Hughes won on Malabar (13/2), and the Chichester Observer Stakes, claimed by Shane Kelly on Sussex trainer Gary Moore’s Tall Ship (3/1).
There was an Irish winner of Sunday’s big race, the Group 3 Doom Bar Supreme Stakes, as Ansgar came through for a surprise 14/1 victory.
Next up at Goodwood is racing next Tuesday, when the highlight will be the Peter Willett Stakes – a £25.000 race for two-year-olds – and the racing stalwart the race is named after will be present. Tips at chichester.co.uk on Tuesday morning.