BIG READ: And they're off! The summer season at Goodwood begins

As its 2018 season of world-famous events kicked off on Saturday with seven high-class horse races, the hard-working teams that turn the bustling Goodwood calendar of fixtures into a reality tell of the preparation required to get things off the ground.

Saturday, 2nd June 2018, 5:18 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd June 2018, 5:22 pm
The Goodwood racing season has begun

At the heart of it all is a 17th century house, situated in picturesque parkland, part of a 12,000-acre site in West Sussex.

And there's a new £2m investment set to wow visitors. 

Goodwood Revival

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Horses, jockeys and trainers from across continents visit the sporting estate to battle it out on its immaculately-groomed, 11-hectare racecourse, for The Qatar Goodwood Festival each summer. 

But rest-assured, on the site that has been home to the Dukes of Richmond for more than 300 years '“ there's something for everyone, including families, petrolheads and partygoers. 

'It costs a lot of money to prep the racecourse and maintain it each year,' says Ed Arkell, who is clerk of the course at the Goodwood Estate. 

'We're a premier racecourse, it's vital we have the best possible racing surface to attract the best horses in the country and internationally '“ it has to be pristine for each fixture. 

Three Friday Nights at Goodwood

'All of the work we do is on a year-round cycle. We start prepping for the next racing season at the end of the current one in the middle of October. 

'We do some remedial work on the racecourse '“ cut the turf very short with a 21ft mower, rake it hard to get the debris out, and leave it alone for the winter. 

'Then the first thing we do is give the grass another cut, and once you do that it thickens at the bottom '“ you don't want masses of height you want it to grow out and thicken '“ that holds the surface together and there's less damage once horses are galloping on it. 

'During the season we keep it cut and slit, and then after each race day we repair all of the damage by hand, we lift up all of the divots and hoof marks so we have a nice, level surface. 

'The parade ring requires the same kind of maintenance but on a different scale.'  

The racecourse sits at the top of the South Downs and hosts 19 days of racing each year, from May to October. 

Ed started working at Goodwood in September but has worked with racecourses for 10 years. At Goodwood he looks after the racecourse, parade ring, stables, the horses and their owners, trainers and jockeys.  

'I love preparing for the events and seeing them run successfully,'  he adds. 

'We have seven full-time ground staff and casuals who come in on race days and afterwards to help '“ they all work very hard. 

'The Qatar Goodwood Festival is my favourite event, we have some of the best horses in the world racing there, it's the pinnacle or our season.' 

Goodwood has been home to the Dukes of Richmond since 1697. Goodwood House is open to visitors from March to October, who can take a tour of the state rooms, enjoy works of art and indulge in a quintessential English afternoon tea. 

Alex Eade, general manager of the racecourse, has been overseeing the £3m investment into the racecourse and its surroundings. 

'We've got a new £2m champagne bar being built on the Richmond lawn,' says the 42-year-old.

'We've always had a champagne lawn but there will be a sparkling new, concrete terrace which will allow visitors to look out over the racecourse, or turn around and see the Isle of Wight.  

'It's been designed by Sir Michael Hopkins. You can see the bar taking shape and it will be ready for this year's Qatar Festival.  

'We're all incredibly excited about it because it's going to be amazing and completely unique to Goodwood.'

Alex says another £1.5m is being spent on general updates, and that when people return to Goodwood this year they'll notice a big difference.  

'It's about making a nicer experience for the customer, and this investment is over the space of three years, so there'll be more to come next year and the year after,' he adds. 

'We're classically known for our Qatar Festival, but our other events are growing. 

'We're going from strength to strength each year.' 

The Qatar Goodwood Festival has been a highlight of the flat racing season for many years.  

While the sport is the centrepiece, many simply enjoy the atmosphere with a glass of English sparkling wine, observing the fashion that is unique to the event. 

Ladies' Day sees glamour paired with the excitement of the Magnolia Cup '“ a charity race for inspirational women from the worlds of fashion, media, sport and business.  

Situated close to Chichester, the motor circuit at Goodwood hosts track days and experiences for all.  

Dan Garlick is the lead Festival of Speed organiser, and says motor racing fans love the event because of the touching-distance access fans get to the most significant racing cars in history. 

'The 2018 Festival will be a dramatic celebration of the event itself, in recognition of its 25th anniversary,' says Dan. 'Fans rub shoulders with star drivers and it makes for a very special atmosphere.   

'Our aim every year is to make the festival louder, faster and more exciting than ever before.

'We have a large and dedicated team who agonise over every aspect of content and customer experience, to make sure it continues to evolve.'

To find out more about this season's events, go to

The fascinating family history behind Goodwood

The first Duke of Richmond and Lennox (1672-1723) originally rented Goodwood to enjoy the foxhunting with the nearby Charlton Hunt. He then bought the original house on the estate as a hunting lodge in 1697.  Evidence has shown a house existed at Goodwood as early as 1570.  The (current) 11th Duke of Richmond, Lennox, Gordon and Aubigny, born in 1955, took over the chairmanship of the Goodwood Group of Companies in 1994. He is the founder of the Festival of Speed (1993) and the Goodwood Revival Meeting (1998). The duke has a career in photography and lives with his wife, the Hon Janet Astor, and their three children, in Goodwood House.


What's on

May 24-26: Festival of Food and Racing   A showcase of artisan producers and suppliers, with demonstrations, talks and a farmer's market. Plus, three afternoons of horseracing  June 1, 8 and 15: Three Friday Nights  Racing followed by DJ sets on the Parade Ring decks from Rudimental, Example & DJ Wire and Steve Aoki 

June 10: Family Raceday An opportunity to introduce younger generations to racing 

July 12-15: Festival of Speed '“ The Silver Jubilee  A global gathering of some of the greatest machines ever built, with vehicles from the dawn of motoring to the present day July 31-August 4: The Qatar Goodwood Festival  Horses, jockeys and trainers come from  across continents to compete. Ladies' Day is on August 2, when glamour pairs with the Magnolia Cup

August 24-26: August Bank Holiday Weekend  The event rekindles the atmosphere of the Great British summer holidays of yesteryear  September 4 and 26: Midweek Racing  For anyone looking to enjoy the races at a slower pace  September 7-9: Goodwood Revival  A historic motorsport event that assembles the most significant racing cars and motorcycles from the halcyon days of motor racing

October 14: Season Finale