Major investment on and off track boosts Goodwood season

Racecourse manager Alex Eade / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Racecourse manager Alex Eade / Picture by Kate Shemilt

Goodwood will have a new look when crowds return next month – and it’s not just the racecourse facilities benefitting from new investment.

Around £3m is being spent upgrading public facilities and building new ones at the track, but prize money aimed at boosting the quality of the racing is also going up.

It adds up to high hopes for a vintage season on the Downs, beginning with the opening Saturday on May 5.

New clerk of the course Ed Arkell and his team are busy preparing the turf and the rest of the site for action, although the wet winter has put them behind where they’d like to be in terms of getting the racing surface perfect.

And away from the lush green track that will host 19 meetings between May and October, there’s been plenty happening.

Racecourse general manager Alex Eade said there had been major improvements to the March Stand which would be completed in time for the first fixture.

A new champagne bar is also in the pipepline, though it will not be ready until Glorious – the Qatar Goodwood Festival – which runs from July 31 to August 4.

Eade said improvements to the Lennox Stand and other areas were also helping keep facilities up to date, with a £3m investment in total meaning race-goers should see real differences when they returned.

Prize money is going up too – and not just in the headline Qatar-sponsored week.

The upgrading of the Lillie Langtry Stakes at Glorious from Group 3 to Group 2 means that is worth £300,000, up from £100,000.

And Eade said: “There’s £500,000 more going into prize money for the year.

“This, alongside the investments in facilities we’ve been making, is good news for everyone.

“A key aim with the extra prize money is to make sure it doesn’t just go into the headline races, but goes into races and meetings across the season.

“We’re keen to show we value all levels of racing, from Group 1 downwards.”

This is the fourth year of Goodwood’s festival-week tie-in with Qatar Racing, and Eade said the ten-year deal had transformed everything the racecourse was able to do.

Qatar signed a deal at the end of 2014 to put £2m a year into Goodwood prize, with the amount rising annually.

As always at this time of year, there’s a buzz around the racecourse in anticipation of the action to come.

Racecourse membership will sell out before the May 5 opener and the waiting list is big.

Ticket sales for individual fixtures are strong too – with one of the Three Friday Nights, featuring the return of Rudimental, selling out in just over a fortnight and the other two in the series likely to go the same way.

Also expected to sell fast are tickets for the May Festival (May 24-26), which will feature Oaks and Derby trials, and the August bank holiday festival.

n Next week: Goodwood’s international hopes rise.