A FRESH increase in prize money will help secure the Qatar Goodwood Festival’s status as a top-class international event.
There will be at least a three per cent rise on last year’s £4.5m prize pot for the five-day extravaganza on the Downs.
And the total for the week could be as high as £4.9m.
Goodwood bosses hope that will see the event build on a terrific first year of the Qatar sponsorship, when they welcomed a record crowd and started to see horses lured to their contests from other parts of the world.
As first revealed a year ago this week, the Qataris have pledged to put millions into the festival over the next decade – starting with £2m in 2015 and rising every year.
Added to money from other sponsors and Goodwood’s own funds, that enables the racecourse to make a big push to attract more horses from afar for 2016 – with trainers and owners in Japan, Australia and the United States all being targeted.
The five days of Glorious – which will run from Tuesday, July 26 to Saturday 30 – are the central plank of a 19-fixture Goodwood season which repeats all the popular festivals and racedays of recent years.
For racecourse general manager Alex Eade, looking forward to his first full year in the job, there is great excitement at the 2016 schedule.
“In many ways, 2015 and in particular the first Qatar Goodwood Festival exceeded expectations, and our aim now is to build on that and make 2016 memorable,” he said.
“We had a record attendance for the five days of the festival – 103,000 – while our crowd for the year remained the same, around 220,000.
“Sales and membership are already strong for 2016 and we are in talks with preferred DJ acts for Three Friday Nights which we hope to announce in late January.”
It’s the Qatar festival that will attract the most interest and Eade said an increase in prize money was assured, with the exact percentage rise still being negotiated.
Officials are waiting to hear back on bids to upgrade the Lennox Stakes and Goodwood Cup from Group 2 to Group 1 status, something already held by the week’s two biggest races, the Qatar Sussex Stakes and Qatar Nassau Stakes.
“Year-on-year increases in prize money will really help us get the best horses here from Japan, Australia and the States, as well as from Britain, Ireland and Europe, in the way that’s become the norm at Royal Ascot.
“That brings extra media exposure and helps make the festival a world-renowned one. But it’s also important we remember the festival comprises just five of 19 racedays.
“The rest of the season is important to us too and that’s why we’re spending more than £1m this winter refurbishing parts of the site.
“Much of that will be spent in the Gordon Enclosure.”
The season starts with a ‘Taste of Goodwood’ raceday on Saturday, April 30 before the May Festival arrives from May 19 to 21.
Three Friday Nights take place on June 3, 10 and 17 with a family raceday on Sunday, June 5.
Post-Glorious, the August bank holiday festival runs from August 26 to 28, midweek meetings on August 30 and September 21 and the season finale on Sunday, October 9.
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