The Sussex Downs provides one of the finest settings in British horse racing as Glorious Goodwood begins its five-day extravaganza.
Day one focuses on the Goodwood Cup, as Big Orange bids to win this race for a third successive time, and in his present mood, it’s going to take a very good horse to try and stop him.
Michael Bell’s six-year-old, held off the late challenge of Order Of St George in the Royal Ascot Gold Cup last June, a personal best performance, so arrives here in supreme form.
The opposition, whilst big in numbers, look some way short of the form required.
However, the John Gosden trained, Stradivarius, is an interesting contender, but no three-year-old has won this race since 1990. His Group Two Queen’s Vase success at Royal Ascot was a step in the right direction, but this will be a far stiffer test, and that despite receiving a hefty weight allowance from the bulk of the field.
David Simcock’s, Sheikhzayedroad, might provide the biggest threat. However, he has beaten by Big Orange in the last two renewals of this contest, as well as finishing behind him at Royal Ascot last time. He may be a spot of each-way value, in what looks like being the perfect opportunity for Big Orange to enhance his reputation, as the top stayer in Britain and Ireland.
Moving on to Wednesday, and all eyes will be drawn to the Group One Sussex Stakes at 335.
It’s a race that has been dominated in recent season’s by three-year-olds, as they have claimed seven of the last nine renewals, and this time they are represented by two runners from the Aidan O’Brien yard, in Churchill and Lancaster Bomber.
Churchill was looking unbeatable having landed the 2000 Guineas double at Newmarket and the Curragh, but he could never land a blow in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, when finishing a well beaten fourth to Barney Roy, with Lancaster Bomber second.
There was no obvious excuse for his demise that day, and he isn’t guaranteed to reverse the form with his stable companion here.
Lancaster Bomber may have only won once in ten starts, but his second at Royal Ascot, and fourth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, entitle him to respect here.
It should also be pointed out that he finished a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita last November, and his second at Royal Ascot was the first time that he had finished in front of Churchill in six tries.
The older horses are headed up by the four-year-old Ribchester.
Richard Fahey’s three time Grade One scorer, appears to have strengthened up into a top miler, as wins in the Lockinge, and Queen Anne Stakes recently testify. He does set a very high standard.
Zelzal, represents a powerful French stable in Jean-Claude Rouget, and boasts Group One winning form too. His highest level, may just be a little below the top performers here though.
Given the size of the field, Lancaster Bomber makes the best appeal as an each-way selection.
The race of the week for me is on Thursday, as the Nassau Stakes see’s the top fillies clash over ten furlongs. Aidan O’Brien has won this Group One prize three times (2007, 2008 & 2016) and saddles the mightily impressive Winter. Her dual victories in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, and the Curragh, were then followed up by a highly impressive win in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. Her most two recent wins were over stablemate, Roly Poly, who has since gone on to win two Group One contests, so the form could hardly look any stronger.
Winter steps up in distance, but the way she finishes here races over a mile, seem to suggest that the extra distance could actually improve her – if that was possible.
The opposition is strong here though. John Gosden thinks the world of Shutter Speed, and given that she defeated wonder filly Enable at Newbury back in April, it was perhaps disappointing that she was beaten in France last time.
Gosden also saddles the very smart So Mi Dar, but we haven’t seen her perform since October.
Sir Michael Stoute has won the Nassau Stakes seven times, and is relying on Queen’s Trust. Her finest moment was winning at the Breeders Cup meet last November, but she’d also finished a very good second to Minding in this very race twelve months ago.
Her most recent fourth against the boys in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes was a very good effort too, as she finished just behind Ulysses, who then went on to win the Eclipse at Sandown, and then finish runner-up in the King George.
Add Pretty Polly winner Nezwaah into the mix as well, and this is a race steeped in quality.
It’s Winter for me, as she looks something special, but she may need to be, to win such a hot race.
Friday provides us with the Group Two King George sprint, as the veteran Take Cover bids for a third triumph in this contest. Now ten years young, he warmed up with a typically gutsy front-running success in a listed contest at York. His whole season has been geared around this race, and trainer David Griffiths is confident of another big effort.
Likely favourite is Battaash, who showed blistering speed throughout, when demolishing the opposition in a Group Three race at Sandown. Charlie Hills trained recent top sprinter Muhaarar, and Battaash could well follow in his footsteps.
Muthmir re-opposes after being well held, but the draw did go against him at the Esher venue, and he ought to be more competitive this time around, and that despite carrying a penalty.
Profitable ran very well at Royal Ascot last time, and Marsha is respected too, following some very consistent efforts this campaign.
Take Cover would be a very popular winner, but Battaash (11/4) delivered a devastating performance at Sandown Park, and if he repeats it, he will take an awful lot of catching.
The final day see’s the notoriously competitive Qatar Stewards’ Cup take centre-stage over six furlongs.
And Roger Charlton’s Projection has been heavily supported by punters. There is without doubt a big prize within his grasp, and despite finishing third in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot last time, he actually led home the pack on his side of the track. He was fifth in the Stewards Cup last year, but didn’t enjoy the smoothest of passages behind Hoof It, and returns here 6lbs higher this time around.
Hoof It, is back for more, and is 1lb better off with Projection, and should strip fitter for his comeback run at Hamilton, but he may lack the sharpness given his light campaign to date.
Danzeno will shoulder top weight, and looked as good as ever when winning at Ascot, but I will side with the very consistent Edward Lewis (20/1). The north have a good record in this race, and David O’Meara’s four-year-old, looks to have a big handicap in him. The easy six furlongs on this track could be precisely what he needs. He is worth chancing at an each-way price.