Five fabulous sun-soaked days on the beautiful Sussex Downs must mean it is Glorious Goodwood.
Top class group racing, competitive big-field handicaps and stars of the future will be on show this week where hard luck stories will be aplenty on this notoriously tricky track.
Tuesday’s feature is the Group 1 Goodwood Cup where superstar stayer Stradivarius bids for an incredible fifth straight success in the contest. He needs to bounce back though from a disappointing Ascot Gold Cup fourth and has some tough rivals to face including Long Distance Cup winner TRUESHAN.
The Alan King trained stayer should get his favoured soft conditions on the opening day and ran well under a huge weight in the Northumberland Plate. Yorkshire Cup winner Spanish Mission, who finished ahead of the favourite at Ascot and Sir Ron Priestley, from the same stable as Ascot hero Subjectivist are also big players in the week’s big staying race.
The main supporting contest on day one is the Group 2 Lennox Stakes, which is just a Group 2 in name as it has attracted plenty of Group 1 horses. Charlie Appleby has a very strong hand with last years winner SPACE BLUES joined by his Moulton Paddocks stablemate Creative Flair, whose winning streak came to an end when a fast finishing fifth in the July Cup.
They are joined by seven-furlong specialists Safe Voyage, who bounced back to form at Chester last time and Kinross, who got back on track with victory at Haydock in May, but this should go to one of the boys in blue. The yard is flying, and Space Blues does have a few pounds up his sleeve despite a poor run at Meydan in March.
The week kicks off with a valuable ten furlong handicap where MIGRATION and BUGLE MAJOR are two against the field. Migration was well backed when fourth on his return from two years off at Salisbury in a decent handicap and improvement on that for an in-form local stable will see him bang in contention.
Bugle Major had some useful form in France and his Hunt Cup effort wasn’t devoid of promise. Up in trip and down 2lb from a good draw, he could be played late in a race with a lot of frontrunners to ensure a strong pace.
The feature race of the week takes place on Wednesday with the Group 1 Sussex Stakes attracting the best milers around. Sadly, Palace Pier will be missing through injury so there will be no ‘Duel on the Downs’ with top 3yo miler Poetic Flare. The 2000 Guineas and St James Palace Stakes hero will be a warm order but I like the claims of Betfred Summer Mile winner TILSIT.
Charles Hills’ 4yo won at this festival over track and trip last year and took his form to a new level when second in France earlier in the season. His Ascot win was stylish and he should get involved here at a track we know he acts at.
Keep an eye on Mark Johnston in Wednesday’s opener. This is a week the Middleham maestro has plenty of winners and he has taken the opening 3yo handicap four times in the last nine years.
It’s a similar story on Thursday for the first race with Johnston winning three of the last eight renewals so keep his runners onside again.
Thursday’s feature race is the Group 1 Nassau Stakes for fillies’ and mares where Breeders’ Cup winner AUDARYA is fancied to build on her excellent second to Love at Royal Ascot.
Nobody would begrudge a top level success for Lady Bowthorpe. She was very unlucky at Newmarket in the Falmouth Stakes and if staying the extra two furlongs, she will have a big part to play. Snow Lantern may turn up here too if swerving the Sussex Stakes on Wednesday, while Aidan O’Brien’s French Oaks heroine Joan Of Arc is also respected.
This contest is supported by the G3 Gordon Stakes, a St Leger trial for the three-year-olds ahead of the final classic of the season at Doncaster in September. Aidan O’Brien has won two of the last six renewals and could rely on dual group one placed Wordsworth, while Derby fifth Third Realm looks to further boost the Epsom form. Bahrain Trophy scorer Yibir may represent the red-hot Charlie Appleby team.
The Richmond Stakes for the 2yo’s is the week's most prestigious juvenile contest which could see Super Sprint winner Gubbass reappear against July Stakes runner-up Asymmetric.
Fridays brings us the best of both worlds. High class action courtesy of the fastest horses in the land alongside a punter's puzzle to solve.
The downhill sprint course at Goodwood makes it one of the fastest anywhere and it suits the bullet that is Battaash. Charles Hills’ sprint star looks for a fifth King George Qatar Stakes but this field looks potentially the toughest he has ever faced and will need to be on his A-game after a Royal Ascot fourth in the King’s Stand Stakes.
Winter Power should be more suited to this track than Ascot, while Art Power and Dragon Symbol may come here on the back of excellent efforts in the July Cup.
The other Friday feature is one of the week's big betting races, the Golden Mile. The draw is always important in this contest with a low draw over the trip almost paramount. Nine of the last ten winners were drawn in a single figure stall with the five winners drawn no wider than stall three.
It will be easier to whittle down the runners once the draw is known on Wednesday morning but horses like Sandown winner Magical Morning, course winner and Britannia Stakes scorer Perotto and recent Salisbury victor Johan are all likely to be on punter’s radar if faring well with the draw.
The Stewards’ Cup on Saturday is the weekend’s biggest betting heat. Twenty-eight runners spread across the six furlong straight on the Sussex Downs provides the ultimate puzzle. With so many entries received, organisers felt compelled to have a consolation race in the form of the Steward’s Sprint. So not one tough race to tackle but we have two devilishly difficult handicaps to decipher.
Last year’s winner Summerghand will be back for more off a 1lb higher mark, while the lightly raced Fresh and William Haggas’ recent French recruit Hurricane Ivor are others to focus on.
The quality action at Goodwood on the festival’s final day is provided by the Group 2 Lillie Langtry Stakes for staying fillies and mares. Wonderful Tonight may look for compensation after quick ground ruled her out of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
Again, she will need plenty of rain and soft ground to take her chance. She beat Passion on Champions Day at Ascot last year and Aidan O’Brien’s filly will look to turn that form around, while another Irish raider, dual Irish St Leger heroine Search For A Song, may also feature.
French entry VALIA finished just behind Ascot Gold Cup winner Subjectivist in the Prix Royal Oak last year and will be a very interesting runner if crossing the channel.
We also have seven days of action over the Irish Sea at Galway to savour with the Galway Hurdle and Galway Plate two big jumping handicaps to look forward to and catering for fans of both racing codes.