GOODWOOD believe they can overcome Frankel’s retirement to deliver another classic season of flat racing on the Downs.
The wonderhorse has provided the undoubted highlight of each of the past two seasons at Goodwood but was retired at the end of the 2012 campaign.
Bosses at the racecourse know he’s a tough act to replace but are confident a summer free of distractions like last year’s Olympics and Diamond Jubilee leaves them free to offer a racing programme that will have the eyes of the racing world on Goodwood once again.
They’re also working on the basis the weather can’t be as bad as last year, when a number of their fixtures were hit by cold or wet conditions.
Racecourse MD Adam Waterworth told the Observer Goodwood staff were busy behind the scenes preparing for the new season and couldn’t wait for the action to begin on Saturday, May 4.
“The start of March is always a bit of milestone when the season’s start suddenly seems close. The days get longer, the weather improves, the grass comes on and it’s all systems go,” he said.
A list of 19 fixtures kicks off with that May 4 opener, followed by a midweek card five days later and then the three-day May Festival from May 23 to May 25, which includes four listed races - among them the Cocked Hat Stakes and Height of Fashion Stakes.
The Three Friday Nights are on May 31, June 14 and June 21 and - as reported in the Observer last week - will feature DJ sets from Rudimental, Groove Armada, whose visit last year was wiped out by a power cut, and Trevor Nelson. Bosses reckon all three could sell out.
Glorious Goodwood runs from July 30 to August 3 and includes the usual two Group 1 races, the Sussex Stakes and the Nassau, plus a host of supporting contests, such as the Lennox Stakes, the Goodwood Cup, the King George and the Stewards’ Cup.
One change this year sees the Group 3 Gordon Stakes switched from Tuesday to Wednesday. It will be sponsored by Neptune Investment Manangement and prize money will increase from £50,000 to £75,000.
The Summer Stakes all-age staying handicap has switched from Saturday to Tuesday and will also be worth £75,000.
The Magnolia Cup - a celebrity ladies’ race that’s raised £200,000 for charity on each of its two runnings - is back for a third time on Ladies’ Day, which is Thursday, August 1.
The August Festival runs over the bank-holiday weekend - from 23 to 25 - and will again have the British seaside resort theme that won Goodwood a national award last year.
Waterworth said the fact Frankel wouldn’t be running in a third Sussex Stakes left a hole but the year’s package still promised much.
“You can’t replace Frankel,” he said. “But what you can do is work hard with trainers to make sure you attract the best horses in the business to your top races, and that’s what we’re doing.
“At this stage two years ago, no-one had heard of Frankel. So who’s to say which horse or horses will emerge early-season this year that we can try to get here?
“Glorious Goodwood will still be a meeting that attracts the best horses, jockeys and trainers in the country, Europe and the world.”
Waterworth said the fact they wouldn’t be up against events like the Olympics or Euro 2012 should help them lure people through the gates - especially when all last year’s distractions and poor weather failed to stop them meeting financial targets.
“In terms of tickets and membership numbers, we are ahead of where we last year, which is fantastic. And we expect a further upturn after the Cheltenham Festival, which is when many race-goers start to plan for the flat season.”
Around £500,000 is being spent on refurbishing and replacing facilities for racegoers. A revamp of the members’ bar areas on the first floor of the March Stand, and a new kids’ playground in the Lennox Enclosure which is being overseen by Butlin’s, are the chief changes.
Adam Waterworth will be writing his Diary from the Downs column exclusively for the Observer (and this website) throughout the season, starting in April.