Goodwood want to double number of top-grade races

Big Orange makes Goodwood headlines - can he do it again next year Picture by Kate Shemilt
Big Orange makes Goodwood headlines - can he do it again next year Picture by Kate Shemilt

Goodwood bosses believe this year’s Glorious has kept them on course to double their number of top-grade races.

They say the quality of this year’s Qatar Lennox Stakes and Qatar Goodwood Cup boosts their hopes of getting both contests upgraded from Group 2 to Group 1.

That would put both on a par with the showpiece Qatar Sussex Stakes and Qatar Nassau Stakes, which also both lived up to expectations this year.

A total of 101,000 race-goers watched the five days of the 2016 Qatar Goodwood Festival - slightly down on last year but still above the magic 100,000 mark - and racecourse bosses were delighted with the quality and quantity of horses in action.

Adam Waterworth, managing director of Goodwood sport, said: “It was a really good week and massively lived up to expectations, I think.

“Probably the highlight of the whole week was on that day when Big Orange won the Goodwood Cup for the second year in a row.

“That was such a high point. Stayers have a special place in racing and here at Goodwood, the crowd know a good horse when they see one. To win back-to-back Goodwood Cups is a major result.”

Officials hope the Michael Bell-trained star will be back next year bidding to become the first horse in the 200-year history of the race to win it three years in a row.

Waterworth said: “That could well be next year’s big pre-festival story. All the interest next year could be in Big Orange coming back to do what no horse has done before and win three in a row.”

If he does, he could be running in the first Group 1 Qatar Goodwood Cup, for bosses now plan another bid to get the two-mile race and the seven-furlong Lennox Stakes upgraded.

“We do want to get those Lennox Stakes and Goodwood Cup races up to Group 1 - that’s a major priority for us,” said Waterworth.

“I think this year’s two renewals have helped our cause massively. The Lennox was a genuine Group 1 race.”

Waterworth said other racing highlights included other ‘returning heroes’ - David Griffiths’ Take Cover winning another King George Stakes and Mick Easterby’s Hoof It taking the Stewards’ Sprint Cup on Saturday.

Goodwood were also delighted to see trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore - the top rider of the week - complete the Sussex Stakes/Nassau Stakes double with The Gurkha and minding.

Waterworth said: “Ryan Moore was on fire all week, with eight wins. Wednesday’s Qatar Sussex Stakes was an unbelievably good race, just as it had been built up to be, between The Gurkha and Galileo Gold. Two good horses given great rides - that is what the week is all about.

“The Nassau was different but what a special, special horse Minding is. We’ve seen a few good fillies here when you think back to Midday and some other Nassau winners, but Minding would be right up there with the very best.”

Waterworth felt the festival’s Qatari sponsors - who have pledged £2m-plus a year in prize money until 2024 - had enjoyed the week, even though their horses did not notch as many wins as in 2015.

He added: “Sheikh Joann, who is the head of Al Shaqab and is our principal contact with the Qataris, was here for all five days, which speaks volumes.

I think they all had a great week. Obviously they’d have liked their horse Galileo Gold to win the Sussex Stakes but they’ve won a Group 2 with Mehmas, and who’s to say he is not the next Galileo Gold? And then they won a Group 3 on Friday.”

Waterworth said it was clear the increased prize money - it totalled close to £5m for the week this year - was bringing about a significant boost in the quality and quantity of runners and added: “One of our ambitions is to get more international runners and we will keep going with that aim.”

Read racecourse manager Alex Eade’s Glorious verdict and clerk of the course Seamus Buckley’s view - pages 110-111.

STEVE BONE

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