How the 2018 heatwave can help Goodwood in 2019

Glorious Goodwood was a scorcher in 2018 - even the horses needed a hosedown / Picture by Malcolm Wells
Glorious Goodwood was a scorcher in 2018 - even the horses needed a hosedown / Picture by Malcolm Wells

Goodwood bosses are hoping the golden summer of 2018 gives their 2019 attendance figures a boost.

Numbers for Glorious Goodwood week were slightly down in 2018 despite the festival enjoying wall-to-wall sunshine - and bosses felt it was memories of the previous year’s wet Wednesday and lacklusre Ladies’ Day that kept some away.

With that in mind, they believe thoughts of last year’s festival and its place in England’s hot summer will have people flocking to the festival this year.

Racecourse general Alex Eade said: “Last year was a good year overall, with some highs and lows.

“We didn’t start particularly well (with crowd disorder at the season opener) but the summer weather was the best on record. Getting people to spend money, whether they are corporate or individuals, has become harder and harder.

Eade added: “When I first arrived at Goodwood, Rod Fabicius, who’d been the boss for 25 years, said he always thought that if a particular day was wet, you’d be ten per cent down on that day the year after.

“We haven’t seen anything like as a big a swing as that but it is a factor.”

Goodwood managing director of sport Adam Waterworth said 2017’s weather, when Sussex Stakes day was hit by persistent rain all day which had a knock-on effect on Ladies’ Day, would have hit the 2018 figures, but there were high hopes the fine and sunny Glorious week last year would have the opposite effect for 2019’s bookings.

“There’s always an element of the audience who will come perhaps one year in three, but you need more new raceogers the year after you’ve had a poor weather year because you know there are going to be fewer rebooking. But if you have a year like last year, with fine weather, you expect your rebookings to be quite high.

“It can take three years to get everyone back after a poor weather day.”

Goodwood bosses stick with winning formula
Racegoers Club award for Goodwood
Clerk of the course Ed Arkell revealed the Sunday of the August festival last year was wetter than the ‘Wet Wednesday of the 2017 Sussex Stakes day of deluge.

And Waterworth paid tribute to the work Arkell had done in his first full season as clerk of the course – in the most challenging of seasons for weather, with the two-month drought coming just before the Qatar week.

Waterworth said: “From a weather point of view, the ball he was delivered was almost unplayable. So hopefully you can’t have that sort of year again.”

Eade said: “The team were watering around the clock for almost four weeks on day and night shifts. It was Herculean effort.”

Waterworth added: “It was a really bad start to the year too. We had the Beast from the East which meant we didn’t get the spring growth you’d expect, so we went into May and felt you were never quite where you wanted to be.”

Bosses are happy to see this year’s fixture list remaining the same, with the Qatar, May and August festivals interspersed with Three Friday Nights and five individual racedays, three of which fall at weekends.

Waterworth said the fixture list fitted perfectly with other Goodwood events like July’s Festival of Speed and September’s Revival.

Meanwhile, people booking tickets for Glorious have until the end of May to book discounted tickets, instead of the usual end-of-April deadline.

Eade said membership had sold out earlier than usual – and added: “That side of things is really, really strong, and really important to us. There’s a genuine waiting list not far shy of 1,000 people.”

* This year will be the fifth of the Qatar sponsorship.

Waterworth said of the Qataris: “They are still very good supporters of British racing generally, with Roaring Lion last year being one of the leading three-year-olds. They are big owners, they bought a lot at the sales. They sponsor us, they sponsor Ascot, so Qatari interest and involvement is as strong as ever, which is great.”