Once called a “garden party with racing tacked on” by Britain’s King Edward VII, the British horse racing festival commonly known as “Glorious Goodwood” gets under way this week.
But what makes the Qatar Goodwood Festival, held from July 31 through to August 4, so unique?
Here a five reasons why it’s not to be missed.
Its unique location
Home to the Dukes of Richmond & Lennox for over 300 years, the Goodwood Racecourse forms part of the 12,000-acre West Sussex Goodwood Estate, which is located in the South Downs National Park, near Chichester, some 60 miles outside of London.
Perched high on the Downs, with views towards Chichester and the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England on a clear day, it is widely regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful racecourses.
It is also perhaps the best viewing course in Britain; from wherever you are in the stands, from the most exclusive members-only Richmond Enclosure to the cheapest standing area, you have a perfect vantage view as the horses roar down the hill towards the finish line.
Its long history
Racing may never have been held at Goodwood if it wasn’t for the Third Duke of Richmond, who brought it to the estate in 1802 for officers of the Sussex Militia, of which he was Colonel.
The first two-day meeting on a course at the Goodwood Estate known as “The Harroway” was so successful that a three-day event was staged the following year, this time under Jockey Club Rules.
The event really began to grow in popularity after World War II. By 1953, Goodwood’s July Meeting attracted as many as 55,000 fans in one day.
The end of ‘The Season’
The Goodwood Festival marks the unofficial end of the British social season.
Dubbed “the upper-class Disneyland — a green and pleasant theme park to which all are welcome,” by Tatler magazine, traditional highlights of what’s known as “The Season” include the Chelsea Flower Show, racing at Royal Ascot, tennis at Wimbledon, rowing at Henley Regatta and racing at Glorious Goodwood.
The Goodwood Look
Goodwood is one of the world’s only racecourses that can boast its very own style, known as “The Goodwood Look.”
In 1906, King Edward VII attended the festival wearing a Panama hat and a linen suit, instead of the customary top hat and tails.
“Goodwood has been an unbuttoned Royal Ascot ever since,” Britain’s Daily Telegraph once wrote.
Although Edward’s informal dress sense shocked onlookers at the time, Goodwood has since become renowned for its relaxed yet elegant style, which will see festival goers don Panama hats, linen suits or flowery summer dresses.
As one of the highlights of the flat-racing season, the world’s best thoroughbred horses, jockeys and trainers will be competing in 35 races over five days, for a total prize money pot of $6.5 million.
The most prestigious race of the Goodwood Festival is the $1.3 million Qatar Sussex Stakes, a one-mile race for horses three years or older that will take place on August 1.
In 2011, the legendary Frankel, the top-rated flat horse in racing history, owned by Saudi Prince Khaled Abdullah, beat defending champion Canford Cliffs by an astonishing five lengths.
A year later, Frankel made history by becoming the first horse to win the Sussex Stakes twice. Other famous winners of what’s become known as the “duel of the Downs” include Giant’s Causeway, Rock Of Gibraltar and Brigadier Gerard.
The race’s leading trainer is Ireland’s Aidan O’Brien, who won it three times between 2000 and 2009, while Frankie Dettori is the most successful jockey, having triumphed four times. The Italian will miss the first two days of Goodwood this year because he is serving a six-day ban for careless riding.
If you fancy a bet, the John Gosden-trained colt Without Parole is the favorite at 6-4 at UK bookmaker William Hill, followed by Gustav Klimt at 5-1 and Beat The Bank at 6-1.