Goodwood bosses have spent the winter globetrotting to try to secure some of the best horses in the world for their £5m festival week.
Officials have been to Australia, the USA, Hong Kong and Japan to speak to connections of top international runners and tempt them to the Qatar Goodwood Festival.
They’re happy with how their networking trips went but warn it is a ‘long game’ and they can’t expect a whole host of visitors from the world’s top racing nations to be Goodwood-bound straight away.
Winx, the new darling of Australian racing, is just one of the names they have on their radar as they plan how to keep improving the Qatar Festival – aka Glorious Goodwood – and even put it on a par with Royal Ascot.
Adam Waterworth, man-aging director of sport at Goodwood, had a whirlwind week last November to take in the Melbourne Cup and then, in the States, the Breeders’ Cup meeting. He’s also been to Japan and Dubai this year to meet owners, trainers and sponsors, while Goodwood’s Anna Kerr has made similar visits to Hong Kong and Sydney.
It sounds glamorous but the trips involve plenty of hard work and are vital to push Goodwood into the central thinking of any racing connections thinking of an assault on England’s top flat prizes.
What’s helped put Goodwood among racing venues being talked about across the globe is the huge amounts of prize money being ploughed in by Qatar, who are entering the third year of a ten-year deal to back Glorious week – worth more than £20m in total.
Waterworth said: “Our trips abroad have been excellent – really positive – though the proof of their success will show over time in whether we get the international runners we want.
“It’s all about promoting our Qatar festival week and making sure the right people know how prestigious our races are and how high our prize money is. The idea is to get Goodwood firmly fixed in their minds so we become part of their plans.” Primarily, they are looking for potential entrants for their three Group 1 races – the Sussex Stakes, Nassau Stakes and newly-upgraded Goodwood Cup, all sponsored by Qatar.
Waterworth said: “Some top racing nations have more mile or mile-two horses, which would suit the Sussex and the Nassau; others will have stayers which would be ideal for the Goodwood Cup.
“But it’s a ‘long game’. You won’t necessarily get many coming straight away but we’d hope that by next year we’d be seeing the fruits of our efforts.
“We can sell ourselves as an ideal part of a campaign for a horse who is coming to the UK for Royal Ascot.
“You need the stars to align – and you need a bit of luck.
“Already we are finding that when we talk to connections about our week, they know all about Goodwood.
“That’s massively down to what’s happened since the Qatar link began.”
Waterworth said the Goodwood Cup’s upgrade to Group 1 was also a huge boost.
The race has been moved to the festival’s opening day, which this year is Tuesday, August 1, and is set to see the Michael Bell-trained Big Orange go for an historic third straight win in the race.
Waterworth said he hoped a number of last year’s Melbourne Cup runners would also take part.
The Sussex and Nassau races are on August 2 and 3.
Meanwhile, Goodwood’s 2017 season begins with their curtain-raiser on Saturday week. A seven-race card will be complemented by a range of activities which will show off other sport-related activities on the Goodwood estate, including golf, aviation and motor-racing.
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