While this summer’s seemingly endless heatwave was finally curtailed last weekend, the warmer weather looks set to return later in the week.
This is great news for race-goers, the majority of whom are looking forward the magnificent and long-awaited Qatar Goodwood Festival. This iconic, five-day meeting will start in earnest on July 31st, before culminating on Saturday, August 4th before a packed house.
In this post, we’ll preview the event in intricate detail, while identifying the runners and riders who are expected to make their mark.
Who will Shine at Goodwood?
Ultimately, the weather will play a pivotal role on the success of this year’s festival, with Goodwood scarcely living up to its glorious moniker when the track is soaked with rain.
Fortunately, we should only expect intermittent showers during this year’s festival, and this will provide a stark contrast with 2017 when the Sussex Stakes descended into chaos and rank outsider Here Comes When romped home and claimed an unlikely win.
The first race to catch is the eye is Tuesday’s Goodwood Cup, which is a Class I, British Champions Series race with a first prize of £283,550. Seven elite-level runners will compete for this cheque, although the initial front-runner is the John Gosden-trained Stradivarius, who has won his last two outings at York and Royal Ascot in May and June respectively.
The only question mark here is the absence of Frankie Dettori, who would have been aboard this four-year old colt were it not for his imminent suspension. The capable Andrea Atzeni will take his place, but the loss of Dettori could prove significant in the final reckoning.
The enforced ineligibility of Dettori will also be felt on Wednesday too, with the seasoned Italian not able to return until August 2nd. This means that he’ll also miss the highly prestigious Qatar Sussex Stakes, which is a Group I race with a total prize fund just shy of £1 million.
Another Gosden-trained runner will start as the favourite here, in the form of the brilliant, three-year old colt Without Parole. Currently priced at a competitive 13/8, this precocious talent has won all four of the flat races he has started to date, including a superb victory at Royal Ascot in June.
Sir Michael Stoute’s colt Expert Eye is expected to provide a formidable challenge particularly given his outstanding performance when winning the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last year. A firm fan favourite, he was also victorious at Royal Ascot recently and is expected to start here at odds around 5/2.
Once Dettori’s unfortunately-timed suspension has come to an end, he’ll mount Sir Michael Stoute’s Veracious in Thursday’s Group I Qatar Nassau Stakes for fillies and mares. This race will reward the successful runner with a first prize of £340,260, and this three-year old will start as one of the favourites.
She still needs to prove her stamina over 10 furlongs in this exalted company and in this respect, Urban Fox may offer superior value at around 3/1. Trained by the seasoned Willie Haggas, she triumphed impressively at the Pretty Polly Stakes at the beginning of July and will arrive at Goodwood in excellent form.
On Friday, fans can look forward to the Class I, King George Qatar Stakes, which is ran over five challenging furlongs and will feature a total of 15 runners. Although this race is not as lucrative as others on the Goodwood listings, a total prize fund that’s just under £300,000 is nothing to be sniffed at.
The race is likely to be keenly contested too, with no obvious favourite standing out from an evenly-matched field.
One of the most likely runners is Havana Grey, who is a three-year old colt trained by Karl Burke. He’s certainly set to enter the race in exceptional form, having won impressively from a field of seven at Curragh last time out. This came despite odds of 10/1 and we should expect him to be priced a little shorter here.
The same can be said for Richard Fahey’s Mr Lupton, who also won impressive on his last outing at York earlier in the month. This was over a similar distance too and while he’ll be running in better company here, this five-year gelding certainly boasts the necessary form to emerge victorious.
The Last Word
Goodwood closes on Saturday, with the Class 2, Stewards’ Cup Handicap. This iconic race will feature a huge field, while the fortunate winner will take home a prize of £155,625.
Ian Williams’ six-year old gelding Aces will be one to watch here, having won his last two flat outings at Epsom Downs and Newmarket respectively. Whether he can replicate this form in more exalted company is yet to be seen, but he definitely represents good value as an each-way bet.
Regardless, this race will provide fitting closure for a truly iconic race meeting, and one that appeals to fans of all descriptions from across the UK!