The weather may have taken a less than glorious turn, but make no mistake the Goodwood Festival will be a cracker.
Starting today (Tuesday) and running all the way through until the close of play on Saturday, there are stacks of top-flight renewals to enjoy a flutter on at one of the most stylish meetings on the flat calendar.
There has been a deluge of rain in the area the past 72 hours or so, but now the sun is back in Goodwood and should dry the surface out in time for five days of first class racing.
However, Tuesday and predominantly Wednesday are expected to be good-to-soft underfoot, and that is an intriguing piece of information ahead of one of the festival’s standout races, the Sussex Stakes.
This one-mile sprint is where Frankel reinforced his position as one of premier racers on the planet back in 2011 – he won it again in 2012, and last year there was a staggering winner in Here Comes When, who became the first seven-year-old in over a century to take the honours at a cool 20/1.
It is a race in which the younger horses have tended to dominate, and it’s a pair of three-year-olds who really catch the eye in 2018 too.
Sussex Stakes Preview (Wednesday 1st August, 3:35pm)
It appears – certainly as far as the bookies are concerned – that Without Parole and Expert Eye will battle it out for Group 1 glory on Wednesday.
Without Parole is actually the offspring of Frankel, and while these are very early days the bay colt has shown glimpses of his papa’s power. A fantastic run in the St James’s Palace Stakes in June brought a maiden Group 1 title, and the only real question is how will he cope with slightly spongier going? His famous sire never struggled, so that’s a good sign.
The jury is still out on Expert Eye, who laboured in the 2000 Guineas and never featured in the frame. That was his sole run over a mile to date, and while he returned to form last time out with a Group 3 triumph – and with a previous win at Goodwood to his name – there are still more questions than answers about Sir Michael Stoute’s colt.
Andrew Balding won this very race 12 months ago with Here Comes When, and his major play this time around is Beat the Bank. The four-year-old is game but has been outclassed in Group 1 renewals to date, and might just be one to swerve.
Two of the older guard will look to once again show that age is but a number. Seven-year-old Lightning Spear has gone close in Group 1s before, and the Qatar Racing horse has placed in his last pair of starts in the Queen Anne Stakes (10/1) and the Lockinge Stakes (16/1). He could get onto the podium here once more.
If it rains for the next 24 hours – unlikely, given the forecast – then Aidan O’Brien’s powerhouse Gustav Klimt (8/1) might just come into the reckoning, but with one win in five starts you sense the three-year-old has met his match since stepping up in class.
For our money, Without Parole is the play at 7/4.
Best of the Rest at Goodwood
Tuesday is a kind of warm-up act at the festival, with the Goodwood Cup Stakes (3:35pm) offering a tasty aperitif for the rest of the week ahead.
The Sussex Stakes naturally takes precedence on Wednesday, before Thursday sees the Group 1 Nassau Stakes (3:35pm), where Urban Fox and Veracious take favouritism with the bookies.
Friday’s feature is the Group 2 King George Qatar Stakes, where the rapid Bataash will be the headline act, before the action culminates on Saturday with a packed card that features the Stewards’ Cup.
Punters will be sniffing a long-priced value winner here. The 2017 edition of the race was won by 20/1 hope Lancelot Du Lac, and this year’s renewal marks a decade since Conquest triumphed at 40/1!