Goodwood Racecourse Guide

The Track at Goodwood
The Track at Goodwood (Dave Spicer / geograph.org.uk)

You won’t find many racecourses that are much easier on the eye than Goodwood. The picturesque venue is based on the southern edge of the wonderful South Downs and can provide you with a truly beautiful spectacle during a sunny afternoon of racing.

It’s a course which is best known for its five-day summer festival, commonly referred to as Glorious Goodwood. The huge crowds it attracts and the quality of racing on show makes it one of the most anticipated events on the British flat racing calendar and also a major social occasion.

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The Course

The right-handed looped course at Goodwood is a very distinctive one. A large part of its uniqueness stems from its switchback nature, something which means handy types tend to perform better here. As it’s a course that takes some getting used to, prior experience at Goodwood often goes a long way and should rarely be overlooked.

While many undulations are present at Goodwood, they aren’t really a big feature on the straight sprint track. Six furlong races start with a short uphill test but for five furlong races, its downhill most of the way, making it one of the quickest courses in the country for such races. Contests of seven furlongs or a mile face an uphill battle towards the sharp, downhill, top bend before leading to the run in. The tightness of the bend combined with the pronounced downhill gradient means that agile horses are favoured here over the long striding gallopers.

For races of more than 11 furlongs, horses will not only take on the steep top bend but also the difficult bottom corner where the ground runs away from them. Congestion at corners has been a very regular occurrence and it’s something which always keeps the stewards busy at Goodwood.

Major Races

Two of Goodwood’s biggest races, their only two Group 1 events, take place during Glorious Goodwood. One is the Nassau Stakes which is contested between fillies and mares and is the feature race on the festival’s final day. The Sussex Stakes is ultimately the biggest occasion however and it’s one in which the legendary Frankel made history by being the only horse to win it twice.

There are other big races that take place during the five day festival though. The Vintage Stakes and Richmond Stakes see some very promising two year olds go head to head over seven and six furlongs respectively. For older horses there is the lucrative King George Stakes and a big handicap by the name of the Steward’s Cup. Special mention should also go to the testing two mile Goodwood Cup which has been around for almost as long as the racecourse itself. This Group 2 contest is a two miler and dates back to 1812!

Outside of Glorious Goodwood there are some other notable races, several of which are Class 1 quality. From these, the Celebration Mile is the pick of the bunch. Run in late August, the mile long contest is open to three year olds and up. It has been no stranger to some very successful winners since its introduction in 1967, with Cape Cross arguably pick of the bunch.

Visiting

The Grandstand at Goodwood
The Grandstand at Goodwood (Ian Capper / geograph.org.uk)

With Goodwood being one of the most scenic racecourse in the country, it’s one that is definitely worth planning a visit to.

Useful Info

Dress Code

While displays of elegance are certainly encouraged during the Goodwood Festival, especially on Ladies’ Day, the same minimum standards apply in each enclosure on all meets. In the Richmond Enclosure, women tend to choose dresses and some form of headwear while the gents must wear a jacket and tie.

Rules are more relaxed in the Gordon Enclosure, with jackets and ties no longer compulsory, but racegoers are encouraged to dress smart and to impress. For those of you wanting to keep things casual, you’ll want to be in the Lennox Enclosure where there is no dress code.

Ticket Prices

When open, entrance to the Lennox Enclosure can usually be purchased for £10 and children under 18 go free. There is also the option of a family of four ticket at £25 which comes with ice cream vouchers and a racecard. Tickets in the Gordon Enclosure typically range from £21 to £26 but increase to £41 during the Goodwood Festival.

Non-members aren’t allowed to purchase tickets for the Richmond Enclosure during Glorious Goodwood but for all other meetings, admission in this premium area starts at £29, rising to £45 for the Friday night meetings. Students and those over 65 can receive 50% off ticket prices in the Lennox and Gordon Enclosures for all meets excluding the Festival.

Membership

To be a fully-fledged member at Goodwood, adults aged 18-24 will pay £170 for a Young Persons Membership and those older will pay £504. Being a member will give you access to all of Goodwood’s many social events, to the Richmond Enclosure for every meet and to the Kennels, which serves as the clubhouse for all of the Goodwood Estate’s members. F

or those of you who just want a no thrills way to see the action at Goodwood, then season passes, which provide you with Gordon Enclosure admission to the 19 annual race days, are available for £210.

Getting There

The easiest way to get to Goodwood Racecourse, if not driving, is by getting the train to Chichester. From Chichester Railway Station, a complimentary bus services will take you to and from the station.

The only exception to this is during the Goodwood Festival where you will catch the 900 bus service and tickets are £5 single or £6 return. For Friday night meetings, buses pick up and collect from 11 additional locations, including Portsmouth, but do function on a first come first serve basis.

Parking

For £45 you can drive your car inside the racecourse and be in the perfect spot for a picnic. This price includes your entry to the Lennox Enclosure for up to four people.

Car Parks 5 & 8 come at a cost of £5 and are available to all, but the former is more suited to Richmond Enclosure ticket holders. Car Park 9 offers free parking for all racegoers but is, unsurprisingly, somewhat less convenient.

History

Goodwood Racecourse in 1895
Goodwood Racecourse in 1895 (Cassell & Co. - The Queen's Empire. Volume 1. / Wikipedia.org)

Racing at Goodwood started thanks to officers of the Sussex Militia who has been previously enjoying their racing in nearby Petworth Park. When the Earl of Egremont decided to withdraw their invitation, however, the Duke of Richmond came to the rescue. The Duke, who was the colonel of the militia, established a flat course on the Goodwood Estate, so his officers weren’t without their racing action.

First Meetings

The first two-day meeting in 1802 went down so well that the following year a three-day event was introduced under Jockey Club rules. Here, the Duke of Richmond enjoyed a winner, by the name of Cedar, on the first day. Cedar would later be beaten by Trumpator, however, owned by the Prince of Wales and later King George IV.

The 19th century saw the introduction of many great races and even some of a more light hearted nature, such as the Cocked Hat Stakes, in which jockeys had to wear a military hat. The growing popularity of the racecourse in the years that followed was temporarily halted by the Second World War but picked up where it left off after the conflict ended.

First Ever Racing Broadcast

In 1947, Goodwood staged a historical first when it was home of the first BBC radio broadcast of a race meet. It was a day which Gordon Richards secured a victory in the King George Stakes, something which he repeated in every renewal up to 1952. This was also the year Goodwood became the first racecourse in the country to offer live commentary to racegoers via loudspeakers.

Four year later and Goodwood was again making history. This time because it was where the BBC chose to broadcast live horse racing for the first time. It’s always been a forward thinking course, keen to introduce fresh ideas and one that is still under control of the Duke of Richmond family.