‘An English garden party with racing tacked on’ was how Edward VII described his favourite race meeting at Goodwood. Glorious Goodwood, which starts on Tuesday (28 July) and runs until 1 August, has always been a highlight of the English high society and racing season.
But since Qatar pledged a £2 million sponsorship deal earlier this year, bringing the prize fund to £4.5 million, it looks set to become one of the premier racing fixtures on the world’s sporting and social stage. Inevitably this has attracted the greatest jockeys and trainers from all over the globe with their best horses, which can only guarantee some formidable racing action over five days.
A highlight race of the festival, the Group 1 Qatar Sussex Stakes, offers £1 million alone, making it one of the most lucrative mile races in the world. The entries list reads like racing’s little black book from around the world. Eight Magnier-owned horses are entered and will be battling it out against horses owned by Godolphin, Al Shaqab, Maktoum and Prince Faisai. Businessman and philanthropist Sir Owen Glen brings the exciting Cougar Mountain over from Australia to stake his claim to the jackpot.
Surrounded by Sussex countryside so beautiful it takes your breath away, Goodwood racecourse is situated on the Duke of Richmond’s 12,000-acre estate and is considered by many as one of the most scenic racing venues in the world. Despite the name change, the Qatar Goodwood Festival will still showcase sporting tradition at its best.
Hamad Al Attiyah, President of the Qatar Equestrian Federation explained why Goodwood appealed: ‘Goodwood is already one of the most iconic sorting festivals of the British summer season and we are delighted to be the title sponsor. The sponsorship demonstrates Qatar’s further commitment to British racing and, with such huge prize money on offer, we hope it will attract international runners from all over the world.’
The Qatar Equestrian Federation have also invested heavily in the Olympic equestrian pursuits of show-jumping and eventing, and have the games in Rio firmly in their sights. Racing has always been in their blood and they have been loyal supporters of the British racing industry for some time.
Glorious Goodwood has quietly grown in popularity since its advent two hundred years ago and has always attracted the rich and famous. More recent A-listers have included Tom Cruise, Elizabeth Hurley (who first met Shane Warne in the Duke of Richmond’s Enclosure at Goodwood) and Rowan Atkinson. Enthusiastic racehorse owners Sir Alex Ferguson, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Michael Owen have been seen in the Parade Ring.
Despite the glamour and wealth that is intrinsically linked to flat racing, Glorious Goodwood has managed to remain understated, traditional and effortlessly chic. When Edward VII felt his favourite racing fixture was being undermined by the young dandies and fops who were attempting to turn it into a fashion show, the king sent a message to the Turf Club the week before the races, asking them to instruct members to come in ‘pot hats’ or straw hats.
The members failed to comply and the following year, although he wore a pot hat and shooting jacket himself, he was still unable to rouse the ‘fashionistas’. However, in 1904 when he turned up in a white silk tipper instead of the regulation black one, he kicked off the desired effect as men scurried back to the capital demanding London hatters supplied ‘the royal model’ overnight.
With his new-found trendsetter status just two years later, the king completed the sartorial downgrade with a switch from morning suit to lounge suit paired with either a white bowler, a Panama or an ordinary straw hat.
Goodwood fashion is distinctly Edwardian still today, with gentlemen wearing linen suits and Panama hats, and the fashion for ladies is summery flocks, tea dresses and vintage finery. Freed from the stiff collar, Goodwood has a more relaxed holiday feel than any other racecourse.
That is not to say that any less effort is made on the fashion front. Ladies take centre stage on 30 July for Ladies’ Day, the most glamorous day of the meeting and truly the place to see and be seen. The day begins with a celebrity ladies’ race, the Magnolia Cup, which has raised over £1million for small charities in the last five years. Celebrity riders who have raced in the past include supermodels Edie Campbell and Jodie Kidd. Competitors sport bespoke silks by renowned fashion designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Frost French and Beulah.
Picnics in the car park at Glorious Goodwood are an event in themselves but there are a number of sumptuous dining and hospitality options, some boasting private balconies with the best view of the racecourse.
This is set to be an unforgettable summer event for enthusiasts of great racing and an English social occasion. If that is not enough, come and be captivated by what must be the most beautiful racecourse in the world, with views to the sea – perfect backdrop to this unique and classically British affair.