FOR years affectionately known as Glorious Goodwood, the Qatar Goodwood Festival is a five-day extravaganza of horseracing at one of the world’s most beautiful racecourses and remains a seaside highlight among the racing community each year.
We take a look at some of the key races this week.
A reshuffle of the week’s programme this year sees the action begin on Tuesday with the newly-upgraded Group One Qatar Goodwood Cup and Big Orange one of the main attractions of the week as he bids to land the race for the third year running.
Although James Doyle was on board at Royal Ascot for his most recent success, Frankie Dettori now returns from injury to partner one of the most popular horses in training. “He’s got a long neck, a good name and a big heart,” is Dettori’s take on Big Orange. “I’ve got quite long arms but they barely go halfway down his neck.”
Two 1400m Group Two contests, the Qatar Vintage Stakes, for juvenile colts, and the Qatar Lennox Stakes for older horses, head the rest of the programme.
The second day of the meeting features the Qatar Sussex Stakes over 1600m and a potentially thrilling clash of the generations.
Ace milers Churchill – the dual Guineas winner, but disappointing at Royal Ascot last time having seemingly boiled over in the heat – and Ribchester, already a winner of two Group Ones this season and the outstanding performer at the distance among his generation since the retirement of Minding, clash in what is potentially the race of the week.
This contest has been won by some of the sport’s true greats and victory for either Ribchester or Churchill on the Sussex Downs would see them join such exalted ranks.
Elsewhere on the card, speedy juveniles get their chance to shine over 1000m in the Bombay Sapphire Molecomb Stakes.
Ladies’ Day on Thursday has been given new sparkle by the addition of the £600,000 Qatar Nassau Stakes to the card. The race has produced some titanic battles in the past, most memorably when Ouija Board and Frankie Dettori held off Alexander Goldrun after a three-furlong head-to-head in 2006.
Dettori is likely to have the choice of riding two possible top-drawer contenders for John Gosden in this year’s race, with both So Mi Dar and Shutter Speed in possible contention.
Two other Group races take place on the card, the Qatar Richmond Stakes over 1200m for two-year-olds, and the Markel Insurance Fillies’ Stakes, in which Gosden also has a number of interesting contenders.
Previous winners Take Cover and Muthmir feature among 24 sprinters entered for the £300,000 Group Two Qatar King George Stakes on the fourth day of the meeting on Friday.
Take Cover, trained by David Griffiths in Yorkshire, became the seventh dual winner of the 1000m contest last year when edging out Washington DC and Goldream, to add to his success in 2014. He also went down by only a head to Muthmir in the 2015 renewal. Now a 10-year-old, the evergreen Take Cover is back for more in a race that plays to his point-and-shoot strengths.
There are three other Group races scheduled for Friday, including the Oak Tree Fillies’ Stakes which commemorates Goodwood’s association with the prestigious Oak Tree race meetings in the US and features some eye-catching French-trained entries.
The meeting comes to a close with the £250,000 Qatar Stewards Cup being Saturday’s highlight. This historic race provides racegoers with one of the toughest puzzles of the week to solve as 28 tightly-matched sprinters thunder down the home straight. Previous winners of this iconic contest include Lochsong and distant relative Dancing Star, both owned by Jeff Smith.
Ante-post favourite this year is the Roger Charlton-trained Projection, third in the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot. The Group Three Qatar Gordon Stakes over 2400m is one of the other highlights of the day’s action. This contest has in the past acted as an informative trial for the season’s final Classic, next month’s William Hill St Leger at Doncaster, although both of its most recent winners, Highland Reel and Ulysses, have gone to prove themselves as top-class international Grade One performers at shorter distances.