This is my first Qatar Goodwood Festival in charge of the racecourse and if you were to ask me if I was more excited or daunted, the answer would definitely be ‘excited’ - writes Alex Eade, general manager of the racecourse.
It is a huge challenge and responsibility getting the racecourse ready for a prestige week when the world’s racing media will be watching every move, but it is a great privilege too.
It is a very important year for us. Last year was the first time Glorious Goodwood had been sponsored by Qatar and we were delighted by how well it went, but this year the key is to build on that success and make the festival bigger and better.
Looking at the entries we have received for all the big races, we are confident we are on course to do that.
The Qatar Sussex Stakes, in particular, looks very high-class. It should be one of the races of the season.
We are delighted with the quality and quantity of entries for that race, our £1m showpiece, but the same can be said for the Qatar Nassau Stakes, the Qatar Lennox Stakes, the Qatar Goodwood Cup, the Qatar King George Stakes, the Qatar Stewards’ Cup and the Betfred Mile.
The Lennox and the Goodwood Cup will be particularly important to us because they are both Group 2 races we’d like to get upgraded to Group 1.
The key to that is building a case – and strong renewals this year, which look set to happen, will certainly help.
I have been at Goodwood for just over a year and having been here for last year’s festival has certainly helped me prepare for this year’s.
As a team we have worked on improving and tweaking a few things from last year and we hope those changes will all help race-goers have a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
On that note, we have undertaken an extensive renovation of our catering. We’ve refurbished every restaurant and completely revamped facilities under the Sussex Stand.
Regulars will have seen some of those already but a new canteen will be open for the first time at the festival and we’re sure people will love it.
The way people eat and drink, and the high standards they expect, has changed dramatically in recent years – you can’t stand still in what you give them.
We’ve brought in rhubarb as our catering partner. They run the catering at the Royal Albert Hall and have experience at Ascot, but Glorious will be a challenge for them too.
Ticket sales ahead of the festival have been very strong. Thursday, Friday and Saturday will sell out and though the first two days are traditionally quieter, we’re confident the quality of the Sussex Stakes on the Wednesday will boost numbers as the day nears.
The message, as usual, is to book in advance to avoid missing out if you are thinking of coming.
Away from the racing (and the eating and drinking!), festival week will include all the usual complementary events, like the cricket match in front of Goodwood House on Tuesday, the Race Week Ball on Wednesday and the polo match at Cowdray on Thursday night.
And then there’s the Magnolia Cup, the celebrity ladies’ race for charity, which is a fabulous aspect of the week and has really grown well over the years.
In its first five years it has raised more than £1m for some excellent charities and we know it will do well again this year. It kicks off racing on Ladies’ Day this year and will be shown live on Channel 4, who will be showing at least four races a day throughout festival week.
It’s often said the hardest work that goes into Glorious is the planning and build-up and to an extent that’s true. Once the racing starts, everything falls into place and kind of runs itself - though that’s not to say the team here won’t be rushed off their feet from beginning to end.
My day on each raceday will begin here around 6am with a walk of the course and probably end around midnight once associated events have ended and loose ends have been tied up.
In a past career I was in the Army, and there are certainly similarities between running the festival and a military operation! Both are about solid preparation and trusting your team to do a very good job.
I don’t get to see all the racing but I do aim to watch the big contests and I like to watch the first race of each day with clerk of the course Seamus Buckley in the stewards’ box high up in the grandstand.
That offers a terrific view of the race and of pretty much the whole crowd – and because you’re up close to the grandstand roof, the roar of the crowd at the end of the race is wonderful – not unlike the famous Cheltenham roar, in fact.
The race I most look forward to is the Stewards’ Cup on the final day. It’s such a spectacle with 28 horses charging in a line.
That will be one of many sights and sounds that make the festival what it is, and it’s our job to make sure the tens of thousands of people who come to it – the figure is actually around 100,000 for the whole week – enjoy it to the full.
I sincerely hope you do... and even find a winner or two.
This article is one of many you can read in the Observer’s exclusive Glorious magazine - grab yours in Chichester or at the racecourse this week
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