Punters can get some Derby and Oaks pointers at Goodwood’s May festival

Goodwood hosts three excellent days of racing next week (May 24-26) as the three-day May Festival returns to the course for the first time since 2006, with four Listed contests taking centre stage.

The £35,000 Listed Height Of Fashion Stakes (3.45pm) is the highlight of the first day of the May Festival, Thursday, May 24, and the contest over just short of 10 furlongs for three-year-old fillies has already established itself as a pointer to future Group success since it was introduced in 2007.

Michita (2008) went on to Group Two glory in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, while the outstanding Snow Fairy (2010) subsequently annexed both the Epsom and Irish Oaks before recording three further victories at the highest level in the Far East.

Last year’s winner Beatrice Aurore has progressed to make her mark in Pattern company, winning a Group Three at Chantilly and coming home second in Italy’s Group One Premio Lydia Tesio in October.

An entry of 11 fillies for this year’s race includes the Hughie Morrison-trained Coquet, who is set to make her seasonal return following a highly-promising juvenile campaign that culminated with a game half-length success in a mile Listed contest at Newmarket in October.

Morrison revealed: “Coquet is a likely runner in the Height Of Fashion Stakes. It has been hard work with a lot of the fillies this winter so she has taken a bit of time to come to hand.

“Ideally, I would have run her before now but she worked nicely enough this morning (Friday) and, all being well, she will head to Goodwood.

“She has a lovely temperament and you would be hopeful that she will stay a mile and a half this year. She has been left in the Oaks and it’s probably a very optimistic dream but fillies are very funny things - they can change out of all recognition both backwards and forwards.”

Other contenders for the Height Of Fashion Stakes include the Nayarra, a Group One winner in Italy last term for Mick Channon, Listed Cheshire Oaks third Cubanita, representing Ralph Beckett, and the John Gosden-trained pair of Gathering and Great Heavens.

The three-year-old colts have their opportunity in the £35,000 Casco Cocked Hat Stakes (3.45pm) on the second day of the May Festival, Friday, May 25. Run over a mile and three furlongs, the Listed contest has also proven to be a useful guide to future top-class performers since its inception in 2007.

Rewilding took the spoils in 2010 prior to finishing third in the Epsom Derby the following month and the Godolphin colt progressed to take the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2011. Masked Marvel, successful in 2011, also graduated to Group One honours with a scintillating victory in Britain’s oldest Classic, the Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster.

The third and final day of the May Festival, Saturday, May 26, features a pair of Listed contests for older horses - the £35,000 32Red Festival Stakes (2.45pm) over 10 furlongs, and the 12-furlong £35,000 Southern Daily Echo Tapster Stakes (4.25pm).

Adam Waterworth, managing director at Goodwood Racecourse, commented: “We had the opportunity to create a three-day fixture in May and we were keen to bring back the May Festival to Goodwood. It’s a meeting that we are intending to build on over the coming years.

“The St Leger winner came out of the Cocked Hat Stakes last year and Rewilding took the same race before going on to become one of the world’s top middle-distance horses.

“Snow Fairy gave the Height Of Fashion Stakes a massive boost with her exploits in Britain and abroad, so both three-year-old races have proven to be good guides to future stars, while Saturday’s contests provide a chance for the more established horses to shine.”

The going at Goodwood is currently good to soft.

Clerk of the course Seamus Buckley commented: “The course has dried out remarkably well since last week. We have had some nice, drying days which meant that we were able to get onto the course to cut it and dry it out.

“We are all set for next week and, if the weather forecast is right, then I anticipate that we won’t be far off good ground by next Thursday. We are looking forward to three days of excellent racing and, hopefully, the weather can be kind to us for once.”

See this website for further previews in the lead-up to the festival - and for live updates over the three days and your chance to get involved