GOODWOOD boss Adam Waterworth reckons an £80,000 increase in prize money at the May Festival is set to pay off.
The racecourse has upped the total winnings for the three-day flat racing erxtravaganza - which starts this afternoon - to around £370,000.
And that has helped secure a set of entries across the festival which looks good in terms of quality and quantity.
The early-season highlight of the track’s calendar begins this afternoon, when the highlight will be the £40,000 Height Of Fashion Stakes (3.45pm), which has lured 11 runners.
And the festival action continues tomorrow when the £40,000 Listed CASCO EBF Cocked Hat Stakes is the highlight and on Saturday, when two more Listed £40,000 contests will be staged.
In recent years, horses who have done well in races such as the Height of Fashion Stakes and Cocked Hat Stakes have gone on to Group 1 successes, and Goodwood officials are hoping the same happens this year.
Racecourse MD Waterworth said: “We look like having strong fields. With the Listed races, you always have your heart in your mouth wondering how many runners you’ll have.
“I’ll be happy if the winners of these races at our festival go on to run well at Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and other big meetings, and we’ve every hope that they will.
“We’ve added quality handicaps on each of the first two days and we’re particularly pleased with the 24 entries we’ve had for the 32Red Handicap, which is one of two races on Saturday Channel 4 are showing live.”
Waterworth is hoping for a 10,000-plus crowd on Saturday and a total of 15,000 over the first two days.
One disappointment is a field of only three for Friday’s Cocked Hat Stakes.
The Height of Fashion Stakes, run over just shy of ten furlongs, has proven a springboard for future stars since being introduced in 2007, with Royal Ascot winners Michita and Moneycantbuymelove featuring in the roll of honour along with dual Classic winner Snow Fairy.
This year’s renewal features several unexposed fillies including the Mick Channon-trained Contradict, who bids for a quick return to the winner’s enclosure after posting an impressive six-length success in a 10-furlong fillies’ handicap at Salisbury on May 16.
The daughter of Raven’s Pass, bred by owner Prince A A Faisal, was third in a handicap over the same course and distance at Goodwood’s opening fixture less than three weeks ago.
Ted Voute, racing and bloodstock manager to Prince Faisal, said: “We were very pleased with Contradict’s victory at Salisbury last week. Mick is always bounding with enthusiasm and he was very sweet on her beforehand, but it’s nice when they go and do it on the racecourse.
“She is a slight filly, who probably doesn’t take a lot of racing, but we saw this race as a good opportunity to get some black type. She’s rated 81 and deserves her chance in a Listed contest.”
Elik, from the stable of Sir Michael Stoute, was an unlucky fourth in the Listed Cheshire Oaks, while Irish trainer Ger Lyons sends over Harmonic Note, who was also fourth in Listed company on her latest start.
The in-form trainer/jockey combination of Richard Hannon and Richard Hughes - never far from success at Goodwood - are represented by Heading North, who was second to leading Investec Oaks contender Liber Nauticus in a mile maiden at Goodwood last September.
Valtina, who made a winning debut for William Haggas at Haydock in April, aims to bounce back from a disappointing recent run in a Newbury Listed contest while John Gosden has declared Trapeze, who was runner-up in a mile fillies’ handicap at Goodwood on May 9.
The line-up is completed by Contradict’s stable companion Harbinger Lass, Of Course Darling (Ed Dunlop), Glenreef (Mark Johnston), High Time Too (Hugo Palmer) and Starlight Symphony (Eve Johnson Houghton).
Thursday’s card also features the £20,000 Wright Joinery Company Handicap (3.10pm) and a field of ten for the seven-furlong contest includes Chandlery, who won the Group 2 Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes at Glorious in 2011.
Other contenders include Betfair Summer Double International Heritage Handicap winner Field Of Dream and course specialist The Confessor.
QIPCO 1000 Guineas heroine Sky Lantern made a winning debut in the £6,000 British Stallion Studs Supporting British Racing EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes (2pm, nine runners) last season. Her trainer Hannon saddles the unraced pair of Mildenhall and Royal Connection this year.
Goodwood maiden winner Zamoyski heads eight runners for the £10,000 Winner Plant UK Handicap (2.35pm), while talented stayers Montaff and Cosimo De Medici are among a field of 14 for the day’s longest race, the £10,000 Hippo Handicap (4.20pm) over two miles.
The racing action is completed by the £5,000 Construction Raceday Apprentice Handicap (4.55pm, 13 runners).
The festival continues on Friday, when Group 3 winner Fantastic Moon is in a field of three for the £40,000 Listed CASCO EBF Cocked Hat Stakes over 11 furlongs.
Jeremy Noseda’s charge will clash with Group 3 Dee Stakes runner-up Contributer, trained by Ed Dunlop, and Sir Henry Cecil’s Disclaimer.
The CASCO EBF Cocked Hat Stakes has been a good pointer to future stars in the past with the last three winners - Michelangelo (2012), Masked Marvel (2011) and Rewilding (2010) - all going on to win or place at Group 1 level.
Meanwhile, Cameron Highland is on course to start his season on the final day of the May Festival on Saturday in either the £40,000 Listed 32Red Festival Stakes or the £40,000 Listed Tapster Stakes.
The son of Galileo, trained in Newmarket by Roger Varian, disappointed when last seen out in the Group 3 Arc Trial at Newbury in September but had previously landed a Listed contest at Windsor by four and a half lengths.
The going at Goodwood remains good. Clerk of the course Seamus Buckley said: “The course is in great condition at the moment and hopefully we will be racing on some lovely ground.”
Our tips for Thursday: 2.00 Memory Styx, 2.35 King of the Danes, 3.10 Chandlery, 3.45 Heading North, 4.20 Silver Samba, 4.55 Surrey Dream.
See more previews, Steve Bone’s daily tips, reports, results and pictures from the festival on this website