Goodwood bosses looked back on an eventful Glorious week and declared: If we can survive that, we can survive anything.
The festival had an upbeat final few days after Sussex Stakes day was hit by 50mm of rain and racing nearly had to be abandoned early.
The deluge put Thursday’s Ladies’ Day under threat but a huge effort by the groundstaff and operations team got the turf and the whole venue safe for racing and for the public – and they never looked back.
The total attendance for the week was only a few hundred down overall and bosses are confident that surviving a challenging week has made them stronger for next year and beyond.
Racecourse general manager Alex Eade said: “It was a good week. Wednesday was one we wouldn’t want to go through again but the team managed really well. At least on Wednesday we didn’t have to abandon, then Thursday was a pretty decent day and Friday and Saturday were fantastic.
“The rain did for us on Wednesday and things weren’t great on Thursday. But Friday was very nearly full and Saturday was a sell-out, and Tuesday had been a few hundred up year on year.”
Paying tribute to clerk of the course Seamus Buckley, Eade said: “It couldn’t have been harder for him. It’s at times like that his experience really shines through. Everyone has such confidence in his ability and that’s really important. It was a big lesson for all of us around him to see how he coped with it. It was great to be here and witness the best in operation one last time.”
Buckley revealed abandoning racing early on Wednesday had been considered. He said: “I went out on to the course after the fifth race on Wednesday and I was quite surprised how much water there was lying on the track.
“Once that happens it’s starting to become a worry. But I kept my counsel and let things go on. I didn’t get any complaints. I was worried that the jockeys were starting to get anxious and several people were wanting us to abandon, but we held our nerve.”
Goodwood sporting MD Adam Waterworth said they would have chosen any other day in their calendar but Sussex Stakes day to have such a downpour but added: “We raced every race and nobody drowned!”
He was pleased to see a bigger crowd come in on the opening day to see the newly-upgraded Group 1 Goodwood Cup run on that day for the first time, adding: “That was a fantastic result.”
Eade said he and fellow Goodwood bosses would review the new-look flow of the week, with the Goodwood Cup moved from day three to one and the Nassau from day five to three.
But he added: “From what I have seen I am really pleased. I think the balance of the first three days was really nice. Friday stands alone with the handicap and the sprint and Saturday seemed to fo really well with all the hype around the Goodwood Cup and the quality of the Gordon Stakes.
“There would have to be a good reason to change it again but we’ll look at everything and take everyone’s opinion into account. We look at all of our races at the end of the year anyway.”
Waterworth feels they are maing progress in their attempts to attract overseas runners to the festival.
“We had the American horse (Happy Like A Fool trained by Wesley Ward) declared this time and that was a bit of a kick (when it was withdrawn. All we need now is to get an international runner to actually run.
“But we’ve had a lot of international visitors, a lot of trainers from all round the world.”
After a festival-week debrief, staff will get to work on planning for the August bank holiday festival, which has three consecutive days of racing starting on the evening of Friday, August 25.
Qatar Goodwood Festival 2017 attendance figs (2016 totals in brackets): Tuesday - 13,394 (13,195); Weds 16,582 (17,010); Thurs 22,023 (23,332); Fri 24,134 (23,010); Sat 25,000 (25,000). Total: 101,133 (101,547).
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