A WONDERFUL WEEK’S RACING WITH MANY HIGHLIGHTS

Glorious Goodwood’s five-day meeting, bathed throughout in wonderful sunshine, provided racegoers with a brilliant week of sport, British summer racing at its very best.

There were so many great performances from Tuesday with a host of horses achieving success at Goodwood and also setting themselves up for promising campaigns ahead, but the highlight had to be the return of Battaash to winning ways. The Charlie Hills-trained four-year-old sprinter bounced back in tremendous fashion from unexpected defeat at Royal Ascot to take Friday’s Group Two King George Qatar Stakes for the second year in succession.

Owner Sheikh Hamdan was at Goodwood to see his world-class speedster ridden by Jim Crowley win by an untroubled four lengths from the admirable Goodwood specialist Take Cover in a time of 56.5s, just 0.49s adrift of the five-furlong course record. Last year’s highest-rated five-furlong sprinter on the Longines World Rankings, Battaash put himself back on course for the accolade again and future plans for the son of Dark Angel include the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes and possibly a journey stateside for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Stradivarius is another horse with connections eyeing exciting plans after his Group One Qatar Goodwood Cup win on the opening day (also his second victory in the race), the John Gosden-trained, Bjorn Nielsen-owned and bred four-year-old setting himself up to challenge for the first-ever Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million £1 million bonus. He needs to go on to win the Group Two Lonsdale Cup at York’s Ebor Festival meeting at the end of August to claim the prize (P.S. which he did!!).

Looking further ahead, Nieslen is hopeful that his gallant son of Sea The Stars will be back to Goodwood in 2019 to retain his Cup crown and establish himself as a truly great stayer, worthy of mentioning in the same breath as such legendary horses as Le Moss (two-time winner of the Goodwood Cup), Ardross and Buckskin.

Impressive juvenile Group race performances came from Dark Vision in the Group Two Qatar Vintage Stakes for the syndicate owners Kingsley Park 10, the Mark Johnston runner is likely to step up to Group One level next time, the fast-running Rumble Inthejungle, winner of the Group Three five-furlong Markel Insurance Molecomb Stakes for owner Rebel Racing, and Land Force in the Group Two six-furlong Qatar Richmond Stakes for Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Two real crowd favourites gained deserved successes on Wednesday – the dual-purpose performer Lil Rockerfeller, ridden by the champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa, was never headed in the extended two mile, four furlong Matchbook Betting Podcast Goodwood Handicap, while Lightning Spear, who has always gone so close in some many international Group Ones, got his reward in the mile Group One Qatar Sussex Stakes for Newmarket trainer David Simcock, owner Qatar Racing Ltd and retained jockey Oisin Murphy. The owner’s racing manager, David Redvers, reported that it was one of his “best-ever” days at the races.

The Godolphin-owned and Charlie Appleby-bred Wild Illusion gained her first Group One as a three-year-old with her game success in Thursday’s Qatar Nassau Stakes and her second overall, while all manner of international options lie ahead for Friday’s progressive and promising Group Three winners Mirage Dancer and Regal Reality. Both are trained by Sir Michael Stoute.

There was also a Royal success on Friday – The Queen’s Seniority winning the mile Unibet Golden Mile Handicap, a second year in succession that The Queen has enjoyed a winner at the Qatar Goodwood Festival. Seniority is trained by Newmarket trainer William Haggas, who has enjoyed a glorious week with four winners.

TOP TRAINER

Going into the final day’s racing, Haggas was one ahead of the 11-time leading Qatar Goodwood Festival trainer Mark Johnston.

Saturday’s first race, the Qatar Stewards’ Sprint Handicap was won by Tommy G,ridden by Silvestre de Sousa, trained by Jim Goldie and owned by Johnnie Delta Racing. Next, the Qatar Summer Handicap made it a double for trainer Jim Goldie when Robert Winston rode Sir Chauvelin to victory over the 1 mile 6 furlongs challenge.

The Qatar Gordon Stakes (Group 3) saw Charlie Appleby-trained Cross Counter take the spoils for owners Godolphin, written by William Buick, while the Unibet Stewards’ Cup Heritage Handicap, a 6 furlong sprint was won by Gifted Master with jockey Jason Watson aboard. Trained by Hugo Palmer for owner Dr Ali Ridha.

With the Trainer’s challenge still all to play for, the Qatar EBF Stallions Maiden saw David Probert aboard Duke of Hazzard strike gold for trainer Paul Cole and owner Fitri Hay.

So it was not until the result of the Qatar Handicap, race six on the final day of the 2018 Qatar Goodwood Festival, that victory was decided in the Leading Trainer Award battle: the winner, Vale of Kent, gave trainer Mark Johnston his fourth winner of the week, for owner Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, equalling William Haggas’ total.

However, Johnston had also had five horses finish second over the five days compared to Haggas’s one and this put the Yorkshire-based handler at the top of the trainers’ list.

It is the 12th time that Johnston has won the Qatar Goodwood Festival trainers’ title and his third victory in succession. He said: “It’s great. We come here every year – I kept telling Charlie (son and assistant) all last week, just like Royal Ascot, you’ve got to take the horse where it has got the best chance – you can’t save it for Goodwood.

“We’ve come with a strong team so it’s great to come out on top again. It has been a little frustrating over the last two days – we’ve had a few second places – so it’s great to get this win. It is a big team effort.”

The day – and the festival – was rounded off with the Qatar Apprentice Handicap going to The Night Porter, owned and trained by Mick Channon, and ridden by Scott McCullagh.

TOP JOCKEY

The Racing UK Top Jockey award went to Ryan Moore on five winners, one ahead of De Sousa. Andrea Atzeni, PJ McDonald, Frankie Dettori and Jim Crowley all rode two winners apiece. It was Moore’s third Qatar Goodwood Festival title in a row and his fifth in total.

Moore, who also won a subscription to Racing UK and a deluxe Goodwood hamper, donated his £1,000 cash prize to the Stevie Fisher Trust, set up to raise funds for Stevie Fisher, a friend of the Moore family and Sire De Grugy’s former farrier.

Fisher, who suffered a debilitating stroke four years ago has now been left with “Locked In’ Syndrome”, which means he can only move his head and communicate via moving his eyes.

Photographs by Rachel Groom.

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RACHEL GROOM is Eclipse Magazine’s Photography Editor. Known for her ‘street’ photography she is also an in-house documenter of racing activities at a training yard in Epsom and loves a big day out at the races. You can see more of her work at www.rachelgroom.com