Goodwood bosses are out to make 2018 their international breakthrough year by stepping up efforts to attract top racehorses from around the world to the Qatar Festival.
Officials have been visiting the world’s biggest race meetings to talk to owners and trainers from across the globe and try to tempt them to Glorious Goodwood, which runs from July 31 to August 4.
They are confident they can build on overseas interest which last year saw the likes of high-profile US trainer Wesley Ward enter runners for Goodwood contests.
Their three Group 1 races – the Qatar Sussex Stakes, Qatar Nassau Stakes and Qatar Goodwood Cup – are the races which they hope can attract entries from America, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong or other racing powerhouses.
Goodwood’s managing director of sport, Adam Waterworth, said: “This will be the fourth year of Qatar’s sponorship of the festival and it really has enabled us to take it to the next level.
“The festival was never going to transform overnight into an event that all the big international names come to – but over time, we are definitely finding Goodwood is on more and more connections’ radar.
“I went to the Breeders’ Cup meeting in November and it was clear there are more and more key people that now know about Goodwood. Ed Arkell, our new clerk of the course, has been to Hong Kong, and we are now working with Ascot and York to demonstrate that anyone planning a summer campaign in this country for their horse should regard Goodwood as being part of it.”
Bosses are hoping one or two Glorious-week races will be upgraded. In line with last year’s upgrading of the Goodwood Cup from Group 2 to Group 1, they have applied for the Lillie Langtry Stakes to move up from Group 3 to Group 2. And the March Stakes, part of the August Festival, will upgrade from listed to Group 3 if they get their way.
The racecourse is spending £3m over the winter on facilities including a new champange bar, work on the March Stand and a revamp of its indoor betting kiosks.
There’s an extra £500,000, primarily generated by the racecourse, going into race prize money, while Glorious week will be worth £2.5m more in prize money in 2018 than it was before the Qatar sponsorship began in 2015.
Last year’s rejig of the festival-week programme, which saw the Goodwood Cup moved to Tuesday and the Nassau to Ladies’ Day on Thursday, was deemed a success and the schedule will remain the same for 2018.
Big Orange, the Goodwood Cup winner of 2015 and 2016 who just failed to land an historic treble last year, is due back in 2018 to see if he can equal Double Trigger’s 1990s record of winning the famous long-distance contest three years in four.
Goodwood officials were delighted to end 2017 with an overall increase in attendances of 11,000 – which, given that the Glorious-week crowd was the same as in 2016, showed some of their other meetings, like the May and August festivals and Three Friday Nights, were becoming stronger crowd-pullers.
Racecourse manager Alex Eade said last year’s increase in attendance figures gave Goodwood a storng position from which to plot their 2018 season.
“As always we are investing heavily in facilities over the winter and race-goers should see a real difference when the new season begins,” he said.
“From the season opener on May 5 to the finale on October 14 we aim to deliver a really strong programme of meetings building on the success of 2017.”
DJs for the Three Friday Nights – which run on June 1, 8 and 15 – are exepcted to be announced soon.
* There’s jump-racing action at Fontwell next Monday. A six-race card begins at 1.15pm.