Racecourse bosses out to upgrade Lennox Stakes and Goodwood Cup

Lord March and Frankie Dettori at the Qatar Goodwood Festival this week / Picture by Malcolm Wells
Lord March and Frankie Dettori at the Qatar Goodwood Festival this week / Picture by Malcolm Wells

ADAM WATERWORTH reflected on a storming start to the first Qatar Goodwood Festival – and said the raceocurse could be on its way to doubling the week’s tally of Group 1 races.

Goodwood officials are hoping the extra prize money being ploughed by Qatar into the Lennox Stakes and the Goodwood Cup will boost their attempts to get both races upgraded from Group 2.

There’s a guarantee from Goodwood and Qatar that if it does get Group 1 status, prize money will go up from the current £300,00 to at least £500,000 with immediate effect.

Festival week on the Downs already boasts two Group 1 races, the Qatar Sussex Stakes – won by Solow on Wednesday – and the Qatar Nassau Stakes, which follows on Saturday. But bosses would love to take the event to another level with another two of the top-rated contests.

Hopes of getting the Lennox upgraded were boosted on Tuesday’s opening day of Glorious week by the race being won by Toormore, a horse with Group 1 form, and having other top horses, Dutch Connection and Safety Check, coming in second and third.

It’s the British Horseracing Authority who decide whether particular races should be moved up or down the Group ranking system and they do not do it lightly. But racecourse MD Waterworth says there’s ammunition now for another attempt at the upgrade.

His comments came as he spoke of his delight at a successful start to the week.

A crowd of 13,212 watched the first day’s action, compared to 13,167 on the same day last year. Wednesday’s 17,000-plus crowd was also marginally up on last year.

Crowd numbers over the rest of the week are expected to be strong with settled weather forecasts and some top-quality fields set to go in the big races.

The Qatar Goodwood Cup is today’s (Thursday) racing highlight, while there will be plenty of interest in the Magnolia Cup charity celebrity ladies’ race, while the Qatar King George Stakes and the Betfred Mile on Friday, and then the Qatar Nassau Stakes and Qatar Stewards’ Cup on Saturday are other big occasions to come.

The racecourse hopes to have welcomed more than 100,000 race-goers by the festival’s end.

But Waterworth is already looking beyond this year’s event with those Group upgrades in his thoughts.

“It’s been a really good start to the week even if the weather could have been better on Tuesday,” he told the Observer.

“The racing has been first-class and we were delighted with the strength of the Lennox Stakes. The result was key to our hopes of getting the race up to Group 1.

“Toormore was the best-rated horse in it and was a Group 1 winner, and then you had Dutch Connection with Group 1 form coming in second and even Safety Check, who was third, is a horse who’s Group 1 rated.

“There’s a guarantee from Goodwood and Qatar that if it does get Group 1 status, prize money will go up from the current £300,00 to at least £500,000 with immediate effect.

“You can never be over-confident of such an upgrade but there is no seven-furlong Group 1 race in Britain so we would be hopeful.”

If today’s Goodwood Cup lives up to expectations – with Ascot Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris heading a field of a dozen – that will be another contest to be the subject of a bid for Group 1 status.

Waterworth said: “We need to show it has consistently been a race that warrants it, but again there is no Group 1 race in this country over two miles, so we would have a chance. So it’s not impossible that we could go up from having two top-level races to four, which would be fantastic.”

The Goodwood MD felt the Qatari involvement this year had given the festival a ‘special feel’. “We wanted to make it feel different without losing any of its sense of style, and I think we have done that,” he said.

“There’s been well over 100 people here from Qatar and the festival is getting a lot of coverage over there and in many other parts of the world.”

Asked what he expects the highlight of the remainder of the week to be, Waterworth said he had no doubt – Saturday’s Nassau Stakes.

With 11 high-class fillies in the frame before today’s final declarations, he said: “It looks like being a fantastic race with Group 1 form throughout the field.”

STEVE BONE

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