The meeting formerly known as Glorious Goodwood is now called the Qatar Goodwood Festival. The fixture from August 1st to 5th has seen a massive increase in prize money due to the involvement of Qatar and the Goodwood Cup has benefitted more than most from the investment. With the absence of Order Of St George the contest looks a good chance for Big Orange to prevail for the third successive year.
The meeting features four Group 1 races and 13 Group races in total and competitive handicaps including the Stewards’ Cup. The total prize fund for the festival is £4.5 million, spread over 37 races. The main summer meeting at the Sussex track is one of the highlights of the Flat season. There is a straight six furlong course and two circuits that join the straight at lower and higher bends.
The state of Qatar signed a ten year deal in 2014 to back Glorious Goodwood. It has been described as the most lucrative partnership in British racing and part of Qatar’s massive investment in the sport. However, there is an ongoing diplomatic issue between Qatar and its neighbours, including UAE, which is where Godolphin was founded. It could be awkward if a representative of Qatar makes a presentation to Godolphin at Goodwood. Qipco is an investment vehicle for some members of the Qatari ruling family and that company has put a fortune into the Champions Series.
Some people would say sport and politics don’t mix but sometimes issues not related to competition cannot be ignored. The picturesque track at Goodwood seems a strange arena for a diplomatic disagreement in the Middle East. Ribchester is owned by Godolphin and the horse could put the uneasy truce to the test after winning the Sussex Stakes for which he is the favourite ahead of Churchill. Lightening Spear has been knocking on the door at the highest level and can upset the market leaders.
The public develop an affinity with stayers because they are more akin to jumpers in that they have long racing careers. They seem to run in the same races for several years and the best example is Yeats who won the Ascot Gold Cup four times from 2006 to 2009. Big Orange is heading in that direction in the Goodwood Cup, a race he has won in the last two years and for which he has by far the best credentials again but the absence of Order Of St George takes something away from the race.
Big Orange beat Order Of St George by a short head in this year’s Ascot Gold Cup. There was a gripping battle in the final furlong and Order of St George looked like getting to his rival to justify favouritism. However, Big Orange dug deep to win the most prestigious stayer’s race in the sport. It is run over two miles four furlongs while the Goodwood Cup is a two mile race. Big Orange is proven over the distance so the horse can win the Goodwood Cup again.
The Stewards’ Cup is a heritage handicap and a race that is closely associated with Goodwood. A few years ago sponsors changed the name to something completely different as is their prerogative but 32Red were only involved for one year and the race has its former title proceeded by Qatar which seems a good compromise. Five horses have won the race twice but not since 1968 and the leading jockey, Richard Hughes, has now retired. The last three winners carried less than nine stone. . Hoof It won the race carrying a record ten stone for Lee Westwood and associates in 2011. Tat horse was aged four and all but one winner since 1978 was in the three to six year old age group.
Dancing Star won the Stewards’ Cup last year, ridden by David Probert and trained by Andrew Balding. Only three horses have prevailed in successive years but Dancing Star is absent this time so can’t join that small and elite group of back to back winners. Danzeno has been backed for the race but Projection has the better profile and can justify the status of favourite in ante post lists. In an open contest Steady Pace can make the payout places so should be backed each way with bookies settling bets on the first five horses past the winning post.
The highest rated horse due to run at Goodwood is Ribchester, owned by the ruling family in UAE based in Dubai. One of the owners might have to shake hands with somebody from Qatar which will provide an interesting subplot to a race Ribchester has the form to win but Big Orange will get more adulation.