There is hardly a meeting in the year, dear reader, that is as well named as Glorious Goodwood. Quite simply, it's one of the most beautiful tracks in the world, and it hosts some of the most compelling and competitive racing action of the season. Moreover, it doesn't take itself too seriously, which is a welcome change from some of the pomposity demonstrated at the big Summer meetings.
I'll be there on Friday, joining friends for beer and betting and extremely protracted and unreliable journeys on the rattler from 'Smokey'.
But the action starts tomorrow, and I've picked out five horses I'm looking to back this week. You might want to note them too (and you might not...!)
The first thing to say is that the forecast is for persistent light rain. The current going is goodto firm, but this will likely ease to good ground. That said, it could wind up softer. And it could ride a little dead if the top loosens up as a result of the rain.
In essence, what I'm saying is that it's difficult to predict how the ground will be, so the following is based on an expectation of going conditions in the good - good to soft spectrum...
OK, caveat aside, let's get to the races.
A good barometer for the St Leger, this 12 furlong race for 3yo's is a Group 3, and is due off at 2.45. Given that introduction,Â it's not surprising that most winners have a 'late maturing' profile. That is, they had light juvenile campaigns (or no juvenile campaign in the case of 2006 Gordon Stakes / St Leger winner, Sixties Icon).
One such lightly raced horse is Sir Michael Stoute's Harbinger, who last ran at Chester's May meeting. Sir Michael's horses are in brilliant form, as evidenced by the 1-2-3 he saddled in Ascot's feature race on Saturday (that clean sweep of the podium positions was led by last year's Gordon Stakes/ St Leger double winner, Conduit).
On official ratings, Harbinger has a lot to find with the likes of Derby third (and Irish Derby 4th), Masterofthehorse (now under new and interesting stewardship) and Firebet.
But of course, our chap is thoroughly unexposed, and if Stoute thinks this is the race for him, it's highly likely this is one of his main hopes for the St Leger. Indeed, he's as low as 7/1 for the latter race.
Masterofthehorse has been taken out of the betting by most firms after moving to an unfashionable trainer by his new owner, and it seems that plans for this one are more likely to revolve around a dirt campaign in the middle east.
Regarding the state of the ground and Harbinger's preferences, although he's won on good to firm (in fact, it was like a road at Chester in May), both his parents had a marked preference for softer terrain. Assuming that predilection has been a genetic 'hand me down', then Harbinger will improve for a bit more 'give'.
He'll need to in order to beat some quite high class opponents, but my cash is on Stoute-y bringing home the bacon.
One of the features of the week is Wednesdy's Group 1 Sussex Stakes, run over a mile and featuring a match between the Classic generation and the older brigade. Although final entries have not been posted as I write, the intended runners are mostly known.
Aidan O'Brien has five of the twelve remaining entries and, whilst Rockhampton was on pacemaking duties at the weekend and will likely not run, the other quartet will probably start. Much O'Brien's best chance is Rip Van Winkle, and his trainer's record in the race (three wins in the last decade) demands respect.
Also entered is the lightly raced and exceptional filly, Ghanaati. She's a dual Group 1 winner against her own age and sex, and this marks a significant step up in terms of competition. That said, she's trounced her opposition on her last three starts and deserves to be here. How I'd love to see her take on Rachel Alexandra at Santa Anita in November (remember, she was a six length winner on the dirt at Kempton as a 2yo, so we know she'll act on the surface).
Forgotten Voice was a laughably easy winner of the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, but was extremely disappointing when losing his unbeaten record just eleven days ago. There may have been excuses that day, but even so this one's another leaping up in class.
Lord Shanakill's win in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly last time out was a welcome fillip for naughty naughty trainer, Karl Burke. He's clearly very good, but again I think he's probably not quite up to muster for an all age 'feature' Group 1 like this. (That said, he also ran a cracker in defeat behind Mastercraftsman and Delegator at Royal Ascot the time before).
Which leaves me with Paco Boy. The seven furlong specialist. Who keeps winning Group races over a mile. And who might have won the July Cup over six furlongs, but for the unsuitably fast ground and being given too much to do when held up. Well, neither of those issues, nor the trip, will be a problem to Paco on Wednesday, and he must surely win the races.
He's my idea of the best bet of the week at 4/1 with Skybet (just 11/4 with Coral).
The stayers get their four minutes in the spotlight on Thursday, as the Group 2 Goodwood Cup is staged as the feature event on the card. It's doubtful that the roof will be raised in quite the same fashion as it was when Double Trigger won his third Goodwood Cup, back in 1998 (is it really 11 years ago?!), but the race is sure to be a spectacle again.
Octogenarian Caracciola (try saying that with a mouth full of sherbet dibdabs!) would be an unbelievable story, were he to win at the fully pensionable age of 12 and for his new trainer, Barry Hills. (His old trainer, one Nicky Henderson, currently being banned from the training ranks for naughty naughtiness - even if you're a training blueblood, it's not OK to administer performance-enhancing drugs to your beasts. Well done the Jockey Club, in my opinion. And look out Karl Burke - your year ban will likely be longer post-appeal. Silly Billy.)
To be honest, this has never been a race in which I've enjoyed much fortune, and I doubt that situation will resolve itself come Thursday tea time.
Despite the pessimism then, I'll row in with Schiaparelli, if he runs. He ran really well when beaten only half a length over a mile and a half last time and, being a very stoutly bred German horse, he'll likely have no problem with either the extended trip (two miles) or any ease in the turf. My only worry would be if he was sent off in front again - surely he'll be held up a tad more this time.
Apparently, he has a high head carriage, but Goodwood is one of those idiosyncratic tracks that makes monkeys focus, so I wouldn't worry too much about that.
As previously alluded to, I'll be there on Friday, and don't expect much in the way of sense out of me on the day. Although I usually do ok, it's more down to luck than judgment, as it will definitely be a 'social' visit to the track.
The totesport Mile has been a kind race to me over recent years, and I'll be hopeful to trouble the satchel-bearer again this time around. Despite the number of runners, this rarely goes to an outsider. In fact, in the last decade, the biggest priced winner was just 12/1, and and there have been six winners at 7/1 or shorter (including the five).
This is one of the most draw dependant handicaps of the year. The last four years winners were drawn
20, 20, 16, 16
And the placed horses drawn high also fared well (last year was an incredible 20-19-18-17-16!, then 20-14-13, 16-15-11, 16-13-6-15).
If you're not drawn high, you probably won't win this.
And 3yo's are out too. Although Roger Charlton won last year with a horse this age, no other has prevailed in the last ten years, and they make up about a quarter of runners on average.
4 and 5 year olds are the age groups to focus on (5 wins and 3 wins respectively), and the official rating band of the last ten winners is 87 to 103. Age takes out 19 of the 36 declared runners, and ratings remove a further four, leaving us with a more manageable 13.
Looking at those who are likely to be near the top of the market helps whittle the protagonists still further, and the remaining subset I'm interested in are:
Acrostic, Dubais Touch, Huzzah, Alfathaa, and Axiom.
Of these, we need to look to the draw. Any of the shortlist drawn 15 or higher would be of serious interest.
But, gun to head, I'd be hoping Alfathaa gets a plum draw. His profile profile looks perfect, after close up runs in both the Royal Hunt Cup (badly drawn) and the Coral Challenge Handicap won by Mirrored (given too much to do and difficult passage). He is something of a hold up beast, which may not be ideal, and he'll need more than a bit of luck, which animals often don't get in this race. For all that, I reckon he's a very good each way chance at around 16/1.
Saturday's racing sees the Stewards Cup, a six furlong cavalry charge, bring down the curtain on the week's frivolities. If you're still alive by then, let's see what gives...
At this stage there are just the 131 entries... So let's chop 'em down to size!
9/10 winners in the last decade were 4 or 5 yo's (the exception was 6). We lose 65, leaving us 67. Halfway there already. 😉
8/10 winners carried between 8-09 and 9-07 in weights, so it's clear that lightweights don't normally win. 24 left in. Note of extreme caution here - if the weights go up, as they may do, the cut-off I used will be incorrect.
9/10 winners were officially rated 91 to 102, meaning we can try to lose another six. We've still got eighteen left in.
There are six likely non-runners, which leaves us with a dozen.
6/10 were in the first three last time out (5/10 first two), but that's a pretty tenuous stat, so we'll park it for now.
8/10 were drawn in a double figure stall, the exceptions being boxed in 8 and 1 respectively. Further 20 of the 30 runners to make the frame were drawn 15+ and 16 of these (53.33%) were drawn 20+. With the draw, it's never quite that simple however, and the last two runnings have seen the first three berthed thus: 14-3-1 and 11-7-25.
I still suspect that middle to high is the place to be, so factor that in once the draw is known.
If we focus on those who were placed last time out (which may be dangerous), we're left with three: Hamish McGonagall, Sonny Red and Mac Gille Eoin.
Assuming the draw is favourable, I'd like to be with Hamish. His trainer (Tim Easterby) won the race in 2001 with Guinea Hunter, a 33/1 shot, and this one may well start at the same odds.
Best of luck this week from Geegeez for Gee Gee (Glorious Goodwood)
p.s. What's your bet of the week?
p.p.s. Do you like my new 'gallery' thingie at the top of the site (not on the blog page, but all others)?