It’s tempting when looking back to Goodwood’s 2017 season to remember one day and one day only – the day the rains came.
The course’s biggest day of the year, when they ran their showpiece £1m Qatar Sussex Stakes, was – to be blunt – horrendous. It started to rain steadily before the gates opened and it didn’t stop til late at night.
Somehow, the eight-race card survived. But big-name runners were forced out of races and parts of the track, car parks and much of the site were seas of mud.
It was awful – so awful it was almost funny – and for the racecourse staff, very stressful. But as MD Adam Waterworth and racecourse manager Alex Eade remember a day when half the month’s rainfall came down, they can look on the bright side.
Eade said: “The big thing we take is that we survived – and if we can survive that, we can survive anything.
“The Qatar Goodwood Festvial week overall was excellent. We had much better weather all other days and saw some tremendous racing, and quality horses like Battaash and Winter winning.
“We were worried whether we’d be able to complete the card on that Wednesday, then didn’t know if the site would recover for Ladies’ Day. But Seamus (Buckley, clerk of the course) kept us calm and the whole team worked tremendously hard to mop up and make sure everything could run to plan next day.”
Waterworth said: “Running Glorious when everything goes well takes a good team. Keeping it going in adverse conditions like that takes an unbelievably good team, and we found out that’s what we have!”
While Glorious came through its mid-festival deluge, other key meetings largely enjoyed fine weather and big crowds.
A dozen racedays out of 19 attracted 10,000-plus and the May Festival, Three Friday Nights and August Bank Holiday Festival all continued to show how well-established they’ve become.
Eade said: “For the season as a whole, we were 11,000 race-goers up on our total attendance.
“With festival-week numbers staying the same, that shows we attracted more to other fixtures, which is very encouraging.
“Once again, at the May Festival, we had a Derby trial winner going on to run in for the Derby. I think all our group and listed races over the season stood up well in terms of quality.”
Waterworth added: “The fixtures outside of Glorious week are very important to us and it’s been great to see many of them growing in popularity.
“We’ve seen some superb horses here this year – from Crystal Ocean, Battaash and Winter at the festival to Mori, Khalidi and Lightning Spear winning other big races.
“The Three Friday Nights were probably our most successful yet. That really is a concept that’s grown and grown and we’re already working on the DJ bookings for the 2018 series.”
Eade added: “We’d like to thank everyone who came racing with us in 2017 and we look forward to seeing them again in 2018.”
Read about Goodwood’s plans for the new season in the Observer next week.