A few years ago there was uproar when the Stewards’ Cup was called the 32Red Cup. That sponsorship deal lasted just one year and now the race enjoys the best of both worlds. The Saturday highlight of Glorious Goodwood is now called the Qatar Strewards’ Cup but regardless of its title the race is still one of the toughest handicaps of the Flat season to work out. Gifted Master was allocated top weight but the jockey’s five pounds allowance gives the horse a chance at a decent price.
The Group action on the final day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival (the new name for Glorious Goodwood) comes in the form of the Gordon Stakes. This race for three-year-olds is run over almost one mile and four furlongs. Fillies receive three pounds but the runner-up in the Derby can concede the weight. Dee Ex Bee was only beaten by Masar at Epsom and can ratify the form by winning the Gordon Stakes.
The rebranding of Goodwood’s heritage handicap and the reaction begs the question of a race’s name giving it an identity. A few years ago I had a brief conversation with the trainer Paul Nicholls at Aintree. Tidal Bay had just fallen in the Grand National so I asked the trainer would the horse be retired. He replied: “We could run him in the Whitbread”. That race had had another name for over 10 years. The Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury has survived under the title of the Ladbrokes Trophy.
The Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Derby will always be known by those names but these are the three biggest and most prestigious races of the season. 32Red paid the piper so were entitled to call the tune. However, sponsorship deals are about mutual benefits and the greatest good for greatest number. Clearly, what Goodwood gained financially did not offset the damage caused by the renaming of one of the track’s most famous races. The Stewards’ Cup was first run at Goodwood in 1840 and was named because the senior steward presented the prizes.
The race is run over six furlongs and horses aged three and older are eligible. Three-year-olds get a weight concession of four pounds from older horses and the maximum weight is not less than nine stone and ten pounds. Gifted Master was set to carry one pound more in the original handicap but the jockey, Jason Watson, claims five pounds. It is debatable whether a rider is worth the allowance and for inexperienced jockeys five pounds does not compensate. Watson is riding in one of the most competitive handicaps of the season in a maximum field of 28 runners.
Five horses have won the Stewards’ Cup more than once and all these two-time winners date back to 1968 and earlier. The recently retired Richard Hughes is the leading jockey with four wins and two trainers hold the record with four wins dating back to the 19th century. Lancelot Du Lac and Dancing Star are attempting to win the race for the second time but other horses are preferred. Since 2000 nine winners have carried more than nine stone and Gifted Master could be the tenth. The horse’s adjusted weight is nine stone six pounds. Three horses have won with a bigger burden this century.
Shanghai Glory is rated to win the race but the horse might not get a run. There are 28 horses above him in the weights and if they are all declared Shanghai Glory will miss out. However, some horses should be withdrawn which means Shanghai Glory will be running of a relatively low weight. Dancing Star won off eight stone 12 pounds in 2016 and would carry three pounds less if declared for Saturday’s race. However, in a tight handicap Gifted Master has the class to prevail.