Goodwood turf 'extensively damaged' by downpour

The brollies are everywhere during Wednesday's Sussex Stakes / Picture by Malcolm Wells
The brollies are everywhere during Wednesday's Sussex Stakes / Picture by Malcolm Wells

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Goodwood bosses have revealed just how bad the downpour was that hit them on their showpiece racing day of the year.

Very close to 50mm of rain fell on the course on Wednesday - Sussex Stakes day - and it was the worst they have ever known on a raceday.

Groundstaff have been working around the clock to repair the track as much as they can to get it ready for the final three days.

Clerk of the course Seamus Buckley, speaking on Thursday morning, commented: "The going is now Soft, Heavy in places. We had nearly 50 millimetres of rain yesterday - we have never had that amount of rain on a raceday before.

"It was the worst day weather-wise I have experienced on a raceday - dismal. The GoingStick average reading (9.30am) is now 5.8 (7.4 same time yesterday). We have not had it that low before. The GoingStick measures 4.8 on the heavy patches, which are on the outer loop and outer bits of the top bend.

"There is fresh ground on the inside of the top bend, after we took down the temporary rail dolling it out by three yards, for the Qatar Nassau Stakes this afternoon. There is also fresh ground by the far rail (inside of the course) in the straight from three and a half furlongs out until the winning post, six yards wide, which is room enough for four or five horses upsides.

"Taking down the temporary rail last night lasted until about 9.45pm - it was almost dark and raining heavily. It was a great effort by the groundstaff team, who had been up since early in the morning. The better ground is definitely from the middle of the course to the far side in the straight - it is badly poached towards the stands' side.

"The course was extensively damaged by the racing yesterday - you cannot have all those runners and that rain without having damage. We have an extra crew in this morning - getting the course forked and any divots put back. There are 30 people out there at the moment. They will be working right up to the start of racing today.

"There is a lovely fresh strip on the far side in the straight and anybody who walks the course can see that. It is pretty soft out there - the top is beginning to dry off and it should ride as soft ground. I am likely to leave the going description as it is for today and see how things are tomorrow morning.

"If it remains dry and windy, it could go back to Soft tomorrow and be Good to Soft on Saturday. The weather forecast is on our side and we just hope it is correct. We are on chalk here and once the soil gets dry at the top the water goes through the chalk and away, meaning the ground will dry quickly.

"Walking on the course now, you would not believe that we had two inches of rain yesterday. The track has taken it really well - we have the grass long - we always have four inches of grass for racing - the BHA recommendation is three to four inches but I like it at the top end to provide a bit of cushion."

This is Buckley's 23rd and final Qatar Goodwood Festival as the 65-year-old is retiring at the end of this season. He added: "I am sorry we had such a bad day yesterday but there we are. I feel it was my fault!"