Goodwood boss looks back pride - and forward with hope

Goodwood racecourse manager Alex Eade / Picture by Malcolm Wells
Goodwood racecourse manager Alex Eade / Picture by Malcolm Wells

Goodwood racecourse manager Alex Eade reflected on a good season of flat racing on the Downs and promised: The planning for 2019 has already started.

It’s been glorious at Goodwood for much of the season. But that couldn’t be said of the final day as rain before and during racing hit crowd numbers and rather spoiled what should have been a lovely autumnal afternoon out for race-goers.

Rain didn't spoil everyone's fun at Goodwood's season finale / Picture by Malcolm Wells

Rain didn't spoil everyone's fun at Goodwood's season finale / Picture by Malcolm Wells

Nevertheless there was plenty of absorbing action on the track at the 19th and final fixture of 2018 on the South Downs, although the death of Dubawi Prince after a mid-race fall cast a shadow over proceedings.

Eade said there was a mix of sadness and relief that the season was over: “The season seems to have gone by quicker than ever, which I think is a good sign. Generally we’ve been really busy and had some really good race meetings.

“Obviously the Qatar Festival was the highlight and we were blessed by five days of glorious weather. But it’s been a very good summer.

“It was a shame to end on a fairly damp note on Sunday. We advertised it as an autumn fixture and it definitely felt like autumn!

“And after a little bit of an end-of-season celebration with staff, we’re now fully focused on 2019.

“Our fixture list is the same for 2019 and we’re happy it is – it’s working well, there’s a nice rhythm to the season.”

Eade said the Saturday of the August bank holiday meeting was the highlight away from Glorious week.

“The racing on that day, with the Celebration Mile and the other top-class races we stage, gets better and better every year. We’re really pleased with that day and think that will be an upward trend.

“It’s not been an easy year. We’ve had to work as hard as ever to make our targets but we’ve managed to do it and I see that continuing next year.”

Eade heaped praise on Mark Johnston, once again Goodwood’s top trainer, with 12 winners this there this season – in the year he became the trainer with the all-time most number of winners on the flatr in this country.

“Mark’s a fantastic supporter of Goodwood and I can’t praise or thank him enough. He sends so many horses here and he comes and brings his owners here.

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“He has a proper campaign during the Qatar festival and brings them all down. They stay and train here then run in their races and he’s won our Dick Hern Trophy for the second year in a row. Long may his support continue.

“His support definitely helps the quality of entries we get and he’s not afraid to run a horse a couple of times in succession.

“I think it shows there’s something for everyone at Goodwood. It’s not just all at the top end, there’s a real range of races of all different levels of quality.”

“We have a bit of investment to make over the winter. There will be some more upgrades, primarily to the March Grandstand - we’re looking at improving the overall area, maybe a bit more seating, a new cafe.

“We want to continuously improve the racecourse. Everywhere gets some attention.

“There’s always lots and lots of lots of ground works to be done and this year has been a great year for growing conditions because it’s been so warm and now we have some moisture as well.”

Eade also had kind words for Ed Arkell, who has just completed his first season as clerk of the course following the retirement of stalwart Seamus Buckley.

“He’s done really well, not just with the maintenance of the track and the turf, which has been fabulous during a tricky summer – we’ve had the wettest spring for some time followed by a drought.

“Ed’s done really, really well and has got the team firing on all cylinders and it’s been almost a seamless transition.

“It’s gone really well so big credit to him.

“Behind the scenes the team is beginning to get settled after a few years and we had a new catering too. But we’re in a good place for 2019 and we need to continue doing what we’re doing and make it slightly better for each race meeting.”