Goodwood officials are gearing up for a memorable start to another year of flat racing on the Downs on Saturday.
The course is looking in great condition despite the recent lack of rain and entries for the first card of 2011 are strong in quality and quantity.
The weekend’s Garden Party meeting kicks off a schedule of 21 meetings at Goodwood, the highlights of which will include Glorious Goodwood in July, three June Friday evenings and two bank-holiday family days.
Clerk of the course Seamus Buckley, his number two Sean Martin and the team of groundstaff have been putting in extra hours to get the track in shape.
“Following a very hard winter and a very dry March and April where only 24mm of rain has fallen, compared to 56mm this time last year, the course has taken a lot more preparation than usual,” said Buckley.
“We’re delighted to say we have the ground where we would like it to be. It has a lovely covering of grass and we’ve been watering constantly over the past three weeks.
“Sean Martin and the team have worked endlessly to achieve such a wonderful racing surface for the start of our season.
“I’m describing the going as good up the straight and good to firm out on the loops. We have a very strong entry and all our races look very competitive on Saturday.”
Gates open at 11.30pm on Saturday with the first race getting under way at 2.15pm. The card features two listed races. At the five-day stage, there were close to 150 entries across the seven races with all the top trainers throwing their hats into the ring for some early-season Goodwood joy.
The one to watch, of course, is Richard Hannon, who has been the course’s top handler three years in a row and may send a handful of runners to post on Saturday.
These could include North Star Boy in the Bet On The Guineas With totepool EBF Maiden Stakes, Aurorian in the totescoop6 Handicap, Fleeting Echo in the totepool EBF Conqueror Stakes and Yashila in the Try The totequickpick If You´re Feeling Lucky Median Auction Maiden Stakes.
Race-goers will celebrate King Edward VII’s patronage of Goodwood at the season opener.
He was known as the course’s greatest fan and bosses are encouraging visitors to take part in the quintessential fun and come dressed in their finest summer fashions.
To book tickets, call 01243 755055 or visit www.goodwood.com. Tickets start from £19 in advance.
* We’ll have tips, previews, reports and results from Goodwood throughout the season - and don’t miss our extra-special interactive coverage of Glorious in July.