Goodwood bosses launch their new three-day May Festival under sunny skies today – confident the fixture is here to stay.
The weather gods who robbed the course of its second meeting of the season a fortnight ago seem likely to make it up for it with three warm, dry days.
And those days will feature for a programme of racing that has a lot going for it.
Ticket sales have lifted off in the past few days and if the three-day festival works as well as looks likely, Goodwood will be bidding to ensure it has a permanent place in the calendar.
Each of the three days features at least one listed race and racegoers are sure to see a number of runners who, if they do well, can be expected to be well-backed at Epsom next week, Royal Ascot next month and at Glorious Goodwood and other top flat meetings later in the summer.
Today’s highlight is the £35,000 Height of Fashion Stakes (3.45pm), which boasts Michita and Snow Fairy among recent past winners.
It has attracted a high-quality field of seven this year - including Coquet, who trainer Hughie Morrison will consider for next week’s Oaks if he likes what he sees today.
Tomorrow’s feature race is another worth £35,000 – the Casco Cocked Hat Stakes (3.45), won last year by Masked Marvel, who went on to win Britain’s oldest classic, the St Leger, and whose trainer John Gosden has a couple of hopefuls among a field of five this time.
On Saturday the £35,000 32Red Festival Stakes (2.45) has attracted 16 entries while the £35,000 Southern Daily Echo Tapster Stakes (4.25) could feature Group Two winner Dandino and Grade One Breeders’ Cup Turf second Sea Moon.
In addition to all the action on the track, the trophies for the Oaks and the Derby will be on display while an exhibition about the Queen’s long history in racing can be viewed in the March Stand.
Racecourse MD Adam Waterworth said: “We can’t wait for the festival to begin now. We all went and prayed for good weather after we lost our last meeting to the rain and our prayers have been answered.
“We were delighted to get our three-day spring meeting and advance sales suggest it’s going to be popular. We last had a three-day fixture in May in 2006 but that was Tuesday to Thursday, and racing from Thursday to Saturday is going to be ideal.
“This year is about seeing how it goes but we’d certainly like to establish it in our programme.
“It’s an ideal time of the season to attract some high-class runners, many of which will be coming on to people’s radar for the first time here before going on to other big things.”
Waterworth said interest in the first two days had been stronger than expected – where as the Saturday was always likely to be a big seller.
And he described the course as looking ‘absolutely fantastic’ after the recent downpours had been replaced by more spring-like warmer conditions.
“Losing the Thursday meeting a fortnight ago was very bad news. We drain very quickly and had coped with six inches of rain in the preceding weeks, but to get another inch overnight before race day put paid to our hopes.
“But things have improved now and the track is just where we want it to be ahead of three consecutive days of racing.”