Goodwood under starter's order for vintage season

They’re under starter’s orders – and they’ll be off tomorrow (Friday) afternoon as another summer of flat racing gets under way at Goodwood.

Thousands of race-goers will flock to the South Downs for 19 meetings between now and October – starting with back-to-back fixtures tomorrow and Saturday afternoon which each contain a listed race.

It’s an early chance for race-goers to get their eye in for the season and try to spot some equine stars likely to return for some of the Goodwood’s big-money contests in July’s Glorious weekend and other festivals.

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Racing is returning to Goodwood on Friday and Saturday / Picture: Getty

Ed Arkell, clerk of the course, said the whole racecourse was looking spick and span and the racing surface green and fresh ahead of the opening races of the season.

“We’re ready to go and looking forward to an exciting season,” he said.

“The turf is looking good. The winter wasn’t cold enough, really, and a bit more rain would have been nice over the past couple of months.

“We’ve had to water more than we would like to keep the surface as it should be. But that’s becoming the new norm – it seems like April showers are a thing of the past.”

Arkell said there had been great numbers of entries for tomorrow’s racing and for Saturday and the quality and quantity looked positive.

Two listed races are the highlights of these opening fixtures: the Daisy Warwick Stakes tomorrow and the Conqueror Stakes on Saturday.

Goodwood will stage another two fixtures later in May, then four in June – including the Three Friday Nights series incorporating DJ sets after evening racing – then it will be all eyes on the Qatar Festival, running from July 26 to 30.

Arkell said plenty of work was going on behind the scenes to attract the world’s best horses to festival week and there had been interest from connections in Japan and the United States.

Goodwood bosses will also keep a close eye on Saturday’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The first big flat race of the season often throws up a strong contender or two for their £1m Qatar Sussex Stakes at Glorious – as it did most notably, some 11 years ago now, when Frankel shot to fame and won both races.