Can you imagine a major horse racing festival without punters and spectators on site?
We experienced it with Royal Ascot, of course, earlier in the year, and while everyone involved did their best to put on a spectacle without the pomp and pageantry of the Queen’s appearance it did feel like something of a damp squib.
Hopefully, there’s some good news on that front….
The UK government has announced a series of pilot events that would see spectators returning to the stands and the rails of major sporting events from October onwards, should the tests go well.
The Snooker World Championship and a cricket friendly between Surrey and Middlesex have been selected alongside the final day of Glorious Goodwood on Saturday August 1.
Some 5,000 spectators will get the chance to say they were first back on a British racetrack since March, and they will get a chance to see the high octane sprint of the Stewards’ Cup, amongst other races.
The sports minister Nigel Huddleston explained the decision.
“For months, millions of us have felt the void of being unable to go to the match to support our team or attend a top-class sporting event. So I am pleased that we are now able to move forward with a plan to help venues safely reopen their doors to fans.
“I recognise that not every sport, team or club has the benefit of huge commercial revenue, and it is often their dedicated fans that are the lifeblood which helps keep them going.
“Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction for the resumption of live spectator sport across the country.”
Of the 5,000 granted access to the course, it is believed that Goodwood’s members will be offered the first chance to attend, and they will be expected to adhere to social distancing and health and safety measures given that the eyes of the wider sporting world will be watching.
What is Glorious Goodwood?
Unfortunately, most of us will still be watching Glorious Goodwood from home – in 2020, at least.
But there’s still plenty to savour, and with ITV Racing offering a live broadcast from all five days there will be plenty of high quality action to enjoy.
Day one at the track will feature a stacked card headlined by the Goodwood Cup, a two-mile race run for the first time way back in 1808. It’s a Group 1 race that ordinarily features as the second leg in the Stayers’ Triple Crown and as part of the Stayers’ Million, a bonus paid out to the winner of the Goodwood feature, the Gold Cup and the Lonsdale Cup. Stradivarius, a three-time champion of the festival showpiece, has twice banked that huge bonus for his connections.
The Qatar Sussex Stakes is one of the most prestigious races on the flat with a £1 million prize fund, and that headlines day two of Glorious Goodwood.
A number of big names have prevailed in the Sussex Stakes in the past, but none more famously than the incomparable Frankel, who triumphed in 2011 and doubled up a year later. The defending champion is Too Darn Hot, ridden with consummate professionalism by the evergreen Frankie Dettori.
Ladies Day brings the glamour to Goodwood, and the amateur jockey’s race in 2019 became a global news story when Khadijah Mellah – the first ever rider in the UK to wear a hijab – took the spoils.
The lead race on the day is the Group 1 Nassau Stakes, aimed at fillies and mares and with a prize fund of £600,000 up for grabs.
Friday is King George Day, and that eponymous race was established in 1911 to commemorate the coronation of King George V. The outstanding Battaash completed a hat-trick of consecutive wins in this renewal in 2019.
And the curtain comes down on Glorious Goodwood on Saturday, with the Stewards’ Cup taking centre stage. In two of the past three years the winner came home at 20/1 and 25/1, so it could be a nice little earner if you pick out the winner!
Glorious Goodwood’s Most Memorable Moments
In recent times, the festival has had a big place in the heart of Bjorn Nielsen and his trainer John Gosden, who have banked £2 million in bonuses courtesy of Stradivarius’ staying power in the Goodwood Cup.
But when we think of Goodwood we automatically think of the legendary Frankel, who twice took the spoils in the Sussex Cup.
You could get odds of 8/13 on Sir Henry Cecil’s charge in 2011, and that price soon looked an absolute gift as he romped home by five lengths while slowing up towards the finishing line.
The cat was well and truly out of the bag a year later as he was sent off at an extraordinary 1/20, and if anything Frankel ran even better in 2012, pursuing the leaders with menace before taking hold and romping clear of six lengths.
It was at Goodwood where Frankel really announced himself to the racing world….will anybody show similar levels of class this year?