WILLIAM KNIGHT might not be a contender to win Goodwood’s £1m race – but he is eyeing up a dream double on the very day the eyes of the world will be on the racecourse.
The Qatar Sussex Stakes is the contest of the week, with Gleneagles and Solow heading a stellar cast of milers in the Group 1 spectacle on Wednesday, July 29.
But Angmering Park-based Knight has pinpointed two likely runners at either end of the same day, with Gavlar going in the long-distance Goodwood Stakes and Solar Flair set for the Natwest Stakes.
Knight revealed his festival hand as entries for the event’s big races continued to impress. There are a staggering 142 in the frame for the Qatar Stewards’ Cup – up 94 per cent on last year’s entry – and 91 for the Betfred Mile, a rise of 61 per cent.
Knight said: “Solar Flair and Gavlar, I would say, are my best chances,” Knight told the Observer on a trip to his gallops to see some of his Qatar Goodwood Festival contenders put through their paces.
“Gavlar has had a first, second and a third at Goodwood this season and has done two miles very well. The Goodwood Stakes is two miles, five furlongs but I’m pretty sure he will get the extra trip. He suggests in his work here that he will.
“Solar Flair won over seven furlongs as a two-year-old and I have always liked him. I started him off over a mile first time out this year - which I am definitely sure he got - but then I decided for some reason to go further with him.”
Meanwhile, Knight’s talented stayer Aussie Reigns is set to make a fourth consecutive appearance at the festival.
The five-year-old won a nursery handicap at Glorious in 2012 and has made the frame in two subsequent appearances at the prestigious meeting, including a close fourth in last year’s Group 3 Glorious Stakes.
He is set to return for a crack at the £300,000 Qatar Goodwood Cup, the highlight of the third day of the festival on Thursday, July 30. Knight tasted victory in the staying showpiece with Illustrious Blue, who triumphed for the Littlehampton handler in 2010.
Knight commented: “Aussie Reigns ran well at Sandown last week but probably needs horses to point at and a bit more cover. His form with Trip To Paris in the Henry II Stakes is very good and, if he can run to that level of form, he has got to be there with a shout.”
Knight could be represented by both Fire Ship and Secret Art in the £150,000 Betfred Mile, the feature handicap on Friday, July 31.
He continued: “The Betfred Mile is a big-runner field and Fire Ship is probably better suited to a smaller field in Group 3 or listed class. However, the prize money is very good and, if Goodwood suddenly came up on the slower side, then we will take our chance.
“He was fifth in the race two years ago after winning a Listed race at Pontefract about four days before. The owners are all quite local and, if the ground comes up right, then we will definitely have a crack at it.”
Secret Art is currently entered in four different Goodwood races and Knight will leave it as long as possible before deciding which one to go for, while Noble Gift is in line to contest the week’s opening race, the Qatar Goodwood Festival Stakes.
Knight is relishing the festival this year and admitted the £2m extra prize money injected by the Qatar deal – which takes the total for the week to £4.5m – has made all trainers focus their thoughts on which of their horses – and how many – are worth sending.
Knight added: “I think Adam Waterworth has done a fantastic job in getting this deal with Qatar put together and the fact that they have signed in for 10 years provides security as well. I can only see positives from it.
“Prize money is key for owners and trainers. We are always moaning that we don’t have prize money and then we start complaining about someone putting all this money into a festival and having the lion’s share of all the sponsorship.
“No-one else has got up and put their foot forward so it’s great that Qatar have gone and done it. I am sure Goodwood will look after them very well and I think that it will be a very good relationship between the two of them.
“I think the Qatar Goodwood Festival will only improve over the next 10 years and it is very exciting for everyone.
“We are always aiming to try to have runners at the meeting and the fact that the prize money has increased is the cherry on the cake and it makes your mind up. When I am looking through the programme book, Goodwood stands out because the prize money is so good and pays well down to fourth or fifth place as well.
“It is going to be ultra-competitive this year. With more prize-money, the better horses turn up so it does make it more competitive. That can only be healthy - we want to compete on the big stage and, if we have a chance of competing for a big prize like the Goodwood Cup, we are going to have a crack at it.”
The Qatar Goodwood Festival runs from Tuesday, July 28 to Saturday, August 1.
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