RACECOURSE bosses are hopeful the Qatar Goodwood Festival could be watched by their biggest total crowd in recent times.
The Gordon Enclosure is already an early sell-out for the final day of the festival on Saturday, August 1, and the same area for Ladies’ Day on Thursday is heading the same way.
Race-goers’ imagination appears to have been caught by the huge increase in prize money brought about by the Qatar sponsorship deal and the way top trainers have responded to that with their entries for the week’s big races.
Glorious Goodwood’s biggest total crowd in recent times was 102,706 in 2012 – the year the return to the Downs of Frankel to defend his Sussex Stakes crown pushed Wednesday’s crowd up to 21,505, close to the numbers normally only seen on the final three days.
Racecourse MD Adam Waterworth said the way ticket sales were going, the high of three years ago could be beaten.
He was looking ahead to the festival, which begins next Tuesday, as trainers continued to pinpoint the extra prize money as a key factor in their decisions over which horses to send to Goodwood.
See more from Adam Waterworth in our video, above
Waterworth said: “Tickets are going very, very well. The Saturday in the Gordon Enclosure sold out at the start of the week, which is very early. There’s only limited availability left in the Gordon for Ladies’ Day (Thursday) so I’d advise people to book now if they’re thinking of going that day.
“The Wednesday is well ahead of last year, as we’d have expected with all the interest in the Sussex Stakes, and the general trends are very good.
“There will still be many people who wait until the last minute for Tuesday and Wednesday but if entries hold up, we could beat 2012, which, given the huge interest there was in Frankel coming back, would be outstanding.”
Waterworth said the racing surface was looking good and the whole venue was coming together nicely ahead of the big week.
“That bit of rain we had earlier this week has helped massively. It was only a couple of millimetres but that’s enough to make a difference –it makes the grass look that much healthier.
“We’ve been needing to do a lot of watering but you can’t beat a bit of natural rain. If we were to get little or no rain between now and Tuesday, we could cope. And of course we don’t want any rain next week!”
Clerk of the course Seamus Buckley is happy with the condition of the track.
Buckley said: “I am more than pleased with the condition of the course. The going is being described as good (good to firm in places on the round course). We have had a total of eight millimetres of rain over the past five weeks and two millimetres of that fell on Monday.
“We have been watering the course lightly to maintain moisture and keep the grass healthy during this dry period. We are where we would want to be as this stage, building up to the Qatar Goodwood Festival.
“The forecast is for some rain in the area on Friday, which would be very helpful and appreciated to alleviate any further watering.”
As excitement builds, another leading trainer has endorsed the major increase in prize money – a theme seen throughout the summer as a number of top yards have revealed their plans for Glorious.
Roger Charlton is saddling Quest For More in the £300,000 Qatar Goodwood Cup on Thursday and Huntsmans Close in the £250,000 Qatar Stewards’ Cup on Saturday.
Charlton said: “Huntsmans Close is all set for the Qatar Stewards’ Cup. He is in good order and his preparation has gone very well.
“The plan is for Quest For More to go for the Qatar Goodwood Cup. It was a good performance in the Northumberland Plate and he seems to be physically stronger this year.
“This is obviously a big step going from a handicap to a Group Two, but he is tough and game and has a bit of form around Goodwood this year. It will be hard to beat the Gold Cup winner but our horse deserves to take his chance and there is good prize money on offer.”
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking sports news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!