Goodwood set for season opener - and it's a practice run for Glorious week

Goodwood bosses are ready for their season opener - albeit one that’s six weeks late and will be run in front of empty stands.

Private Secretary (Frankie Dettori) on their way to winning the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood last year - this year's is the highlight of Sunday's fixture / Picture: Getty
Private Secretary (Frankie Dettori) on their way to winning the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood last year - this year's is the highlight of Sunday's fixture / Picture: Getty

The racecourse’s first flat fixtures of the season take place on Sunday (June 14) and Monday (15) and they promise to serve up quite a feast.

Four of Sunday’s races - including the listed Cocked Hat Stakes, which is a trial for next month’s Epsom Derby – will be shown live on ITV4, with the rest of the two days’ action live on Racing TV.

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This is something of a practice run for Goodwood staff, horse racing officials and visiting trainers and stable staff ahead of the five-day Qatar Goodwood Festival, which has retained its usual end-of-July slot and may yet be run in front of a crowd comprising racecourse members.

Adam Waterworth, sport MD at Goodwood, admitted Sunday and Monday would be strange days but everyone was eagerly looking forward to seeing some top-class racing again on the Downs.

He said the venue had needed to prove to the British Horseracing Authority it had a plan to stage racing safely at this time of lockdown restrictions – and now had to deliver.

“It will be great to be racing but will be certainly be odd with no crowds present,” he told us. “There are arrows all over the ground and one-way systems in place and signs up telling people what they can and can’t do and where they should go.

“We have to get it right – if we get it wrong they’ll close us down! Sarah Bullen and the operations team she heads have done a fantastic job getting everything ready.”

For these two meetings, racing each day starts at midday and features eight races. There are two listed contests on Sunday – the Cocked Hat Stakes, where a few Derby hopefuls will be put to the test, and the Cathedral Stakes, a race given a new home at Goodwood because it could not be staged at Salisbury.

Entry numbers are healthy: there are 126 horses in the frame for Sunday’s card and similar numbers are expected for Monday. That’s not least because the season has started late, but it does show the lockdown and the restrictions it has brought have done nothing to diminish the appetite of trainers and owners to get their horses out on the track.

Waterworth said it was important that Goodwood was staging some racing before Glorious week, when it would be the centre of the racing world’s attention.

“We were fairly adamant that for us to stage our festival week, we needed a day or two in advance to put everything to the test,” he said.

“We have government protocol to follow very closely and the BHA are very involved in making sure it is followed. We have to adhere to the rules and it feels right to be able to show we can do that before we’re in the full glare for Glorious Goodwood.”

Staff still hope they may be able to welcome members during Glorious, although they have said no other tickets will go on sale.

Officials are watching to see when pubs and restaurants are allowed to open – especially their outdoor areas – and feel it would be only fair for racecourses to be permitted to welcome visitors when that happens.

Goodwood has 4,000 members and an ideal scenario would see them allowed to have that many people daily at the festival – it is about one sixth of their overall capacity so social distancing rules could still be kept.