Arkell's first year as Goodwood clerk is one to savour

Ed Arkell at Goodwood / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Ed Arkell at Goodwood / Picture by Kate Shemilt

It’s been a challenging first year as clerk of the course at Goodwood for Ed Arkell. But most would surely agree it’s been a highly successful one.

Arkell took over from Seamus Buckley, who spent 23 years in the role, at the end of the 2018 season, having helped Buckley at the week-long Glorious festival for the past decade.

This year, the opening fixture in May was marred by violent scenes among a group of racegoers, but the racecourse upped their security and police presence in response, which eradicated such behaviour for the rest of the season. There were also instances of two jockeys squaring up in the weighing room – and even a horse biting another runner in the closing stages of a race.

But none of these incidents bear reflection on the excellent job carried out by the new clerk, who described this year’s main event – the Qatar Goodwood Festival – as ‘one of the best’.

He said one major task faced by the team was to keep the racing surface sufficiently watered throughout a very dry summer. However, groundstaff worked tirelessly to achieve this. And thanks to the small amount of rain which arrived right on cue just ahead of the Glorious festival, Arkell described the ground as being in optimum racing condition.

One horse who was not worried about slight give in the turf was the Charlie Appleby-trained Gordon Stakes winner Cross Counter, whom Arkell picked out as his performance of festival week. The three-year-old Godolphin horse broke the track record on the way to victory, not idling when left out in the clear, which made it all the more impressive.

Cross Counter, remarkably, went on to win last month’s Melbourne Cup – and Goodwood bosses are hoping he returns to the Downs in 2019.

Arkell also enjoyed watching Lil Rockerfeller, a horse he remembers winning the National Spirit Hurdle during his days in charge of Fontwell Park, cruise to victory – as well as George Baker’s 125/1 aptly-named winner Feel Glorious.

Arkell said: “That was great for George. It goes to show that we provide a mix of races, giving opportunities for smaller trainers and owners to saddle winners.”

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One of Arkell’s roles at Goodwood is to help attract more runners from overseas to the Qatar Festival. This year, the number of French-bred runners doubled, which was a success in itself – but this is still a work in progress, he points out.

Arkell said: “It is not just about the racing here, owners and trainers are also attracted by the fantastic evening events held on the estate such as a cricket match, the sales and cars on the motor circuit.

“We have fantastic connections in France, I will be going to Hong-Kong during the winter and it is all about being there and approaching the right people and encouraging them to come racing at Goodwood. This year was the start of a three to four-year plan of action to entice more foreign runners.

“We are aiming to attract younger trainers in places like France – who may be sceptical about bringing their runners over – by easing any anxieties they have about travelling and ensuring they know they will be well looked after and enjoy the unique element of fun Goodwood has to offer.”

Although the season has come to a close, there is still plenty of work to be done for Arkell and Co. The groundstaff are out on the track doing a fantastic job, ensuring the surface is maintained ahead of the winter and spring and the return of racing on May 4 next year.

Arkell said he had learned a lot in his first year, particularly how the timescales for work differ with the size of the track.

He said he was extremely pleased with how his first season had gone and had received fantastic plaudits from the racing industry following an extremely successful Glorious festival.