qatargoodwestFrom GBI Racing

The Qatar Goodwood Festival has an identity all of its own, but prize money and prestige to match almost any comparable fixture in the world, with nearly £5million up for grabs on the Sussex Downs this week.

No less than 13 Group races take place at the meeting over the course of the five days, including the Sussex Stakes and Nassau Stakes, both Group One highlights to celebrate, and both of which have produced thrilling finishes and showcased the talents of some of the sport’s great stars in recent years.

 

Goodwood can be a tough place for punters to come out in front, with the undulations of the track and the sometime sconfusing effect of the draw to take into consideration, but the racing is always exciting and certain trainers and jockeys seem to excel at the meeting.

 


Tuesday

The action gets underway with two Group races. Godolphin dominate the field for the Group Two Qatar Lennox Stakes, a 1400m contest that course officials are keen to upgrade to top-level status.

The Charlie Hills-trained Dutch Connection, one of the Godolphin trio, is still looking for his first win since last year’s Jersey Stakes, but has produced a series of high-class efforts, including when only beaten three-quarters of a length in this race 12 months ago.

Heading the opposition is Hugo Palmer’s Home Of The Brave, a gutsy frontrunner who loves this trip, although he is yet to win at this level.

Godolphin also have a strong hand in the Qatar Vintage Stakes, a contest for two-year-olds over the same trip, with recent Superlative Stakes winner Boynton likely to be at the head of the betting under James Doyle.

Richard Hannon runs the intriguing Larchmont Lad, a winner of his only previous outing, a Sandown maiden over this distance that looked particularly strong on paper. He’ll need to find much more if he is to maintain his unbeaten record in this line-up, but his stable has a particularly strong record in this contest.

The supporting card kicks off with an interesting 2000m handicap in which a handful of potential pattern-race performers may be among the final line-up. The Luca Cumani-trained Shakopee takes the eye off bottom-weight, with a strong-looking draw in stall three.

Wednesday

No doubting the highlight here, with the re-match between Classic heroes Galileo Gold, Awtaad and The Gurkha teed up for the £1million Qatar Sussex Stakes over 1600m.

It was Galileo Gold, the winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, who came out on top when the pair clashed, along with Irish 2000 Guineas winner Awtaad, in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Gurkha went on afterwards to Sandown and again met with a creditable and narrow defeat, but connections are hopeful that form can be reversed with Galileo Gold, who benefited from a fine Frankie Dettori ride at Ascot. Bookmakers and punters alike may struggle to split the pair.

The Sussex Stakes often features an interesting clash between the generations, but the older team could struggle to lay a glove on their younger rivals this year. Lightning Spear, third in the Queen Anne on his first start since being transferred to join David Simcock in Newmarket, looks the pick of the bunch.

Simcock could also saddle Algometer in the BeringIce Gordon Stakes, a 2400m Group Three contest for three-year-olds that frequently acts as a trial for Britain’s final Classic of the season, the Ladbrokes St Leger.

Algometer might ideally prefer a little more juice in the ground, while the same could possibly be said about the fascinating Ulysses, who failed to live up to his astonishing pedigree when well beaten in the Investec Derby, but who has been pleasing trainer Sir Michael Stoute with his progress at home in Newmarket since.

Thursday

It’s Ladies Day at Glorious Goodwood and the highlight is the Group Two £300,000 Qatar Goodwood Cup, a race in which Big Orange bids for back-to-back successes.

There was a time not so long ago when repeat contenders had an excellent record in this race, and although Big Orange has his foibles, he was undoubtedly impressive when making a winning return under James McDonald at Newmarket’s July Festival.

Regular rider Jamie Spencer will be back on board here, but don’t expect the tactics to be much different as Big Orange likes to be ridden handily. Last year’s neck runner-up Quest For More is set to be in opposition again, as is fourth-home Pallasator, a horse whose biggest struggles seem to be within his own head.

The 1200m Qatar Richmond Stakes is set to feature the return of Godolphin’s fascinating Blue Point, a juvenile who left old hands gasping with the nature of his latest Doncaster victory. That was just an ordinary six-runner novice stakes, but the time he clocked reinforced the idea that Blue Point might just prove to be very special.

Mehmas, runner-up in the Coventry Stakes and then a tidy winner of the July Stakes, heads the opposition with Richard Hannon keen to make hay while the sun shines with a horse who looks an out-and-out two-year-old rather than a longer-term prospect.

 

Friday

Speed is the name of the game in Friday’s feature – the Qatar King George Stakes. Among the quickest 1000m tracks in the UK, the race draws back together the King’s Stand Stakes second, third and fourth-placers; Cotai Glory, Goken and Jungle Cat.

All three however must now concede 7lb in weight to progressive three-year-old fillies Easton Angel and Marsha. The pair fought out a tight finish at York last time with proven Group One contender Muthmir third and look ready to take the step up in grade in their stride.

Further boosts come from the red-hot form of Sir Mark Prescott’s string (in Marsha’s case) and the recent return to form of Easton Angel’s illustrious stable mate Mecca’s Angel – they could easily fight out another finish here.

A brace of competitive looking Group Three affairs start the card. The opening Glorious Stakes has been something of a shop window for prospective Melbourne Cup candidates in recent years and it will certainly be worth following with an eye to the future.

The same could be said of the following contest, the Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes, a Group Three fillies’ contest over 1600m that has attracted a high-class entry. Sir Michael Stoute has won this race regularly through the years and his pair of entrants look like strong contenders; Forge is from Prince Khalid Abdullah’s most prolific bloodline and she will have learned plenty from her Jersey Stakes third.

The day’s final feature race, the £150,000 added Betfred Golden Mile is sure to be a ‘helter skelter’ affair. A low draw is often a necessity in this contest. If Belgian Bill gets lucky at the ballot he could improve on his second place last season from a 2lb lower handicap rating.

 

Saturday

Its prize money having been rocketed to £600,000 the Qatar Nassau Stakes is now the premier mid-season contest in Europe for middle-distance fillies and mares, and makes a truly fitting highlight to the final day of action.

Staged over just short of 2000m, it is jointly the richest race of its kind anywhere in Europe, but the Nassau has always attracted high-class competition, recent winners including Midday, The Fugue and Ouija Board, whose titanic battle up the home straight with Alexander Goldrun still seems vivid in the memory even though it was now 10 years ago.

Newmarket-based John Gosden has established himself as a dab hand with fillies in recent seasons and has taken the prize in three of the past four years with The Fugue (2012), Winsili (2013) and Sultanina (2014), so his representatives should be respected this year.

However, it is likely going to prove hard to topple Minding, the champion three-year-old filly so far this season after mopping up Classics at Newmarket and The Curragh, along with a luckless second in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and a dominance confirming victory in the Pretty Polly. Aidan O’Brien can pretty much pick and choose his targets with Minding now for the rest of the season. The Nassau is within his sights.

Saturday’s action at Goodwood also features the Qatar Stewards’ Cup, in which two dozen handicappers hurtle down 1200m of the straight course at lightning speed in search of a place in the history books and a big slice of cash.

RACE SNAPSHOT

Tuesday

G2 Qatar Lennox Stakes
G2 Qatar Vintage Stakes

Wednesday

G1 Qatar Sussex Stakes (British Champions Series)
G3 Gordon Stakes
G3 Molecomb Stakes

Thursday

G2 Qatar Richmond Stakes
G2 Qatar Goodwood Cup (British Champions Series)
G3 Markel Insurance Fillies’ Stakes (Registered As The Lillie Langtry Stakes)

Friday

G2 Qatar King George Stakes
G3 L’Ormarins Queens Plate Stakes (Registered As The Oak Tree Stakes)
G3 Betfred Glorious Stakes
G3 Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes

Saturday

G1 Qatar Nassau Stakes (British Champions Series)
Qatar Stewards Cup (Heritage Handicap)