|Racing at Newmarket is a business; at Goodwood it becomes a leisured pastime. On Trundle Hill the crowd is in holiday mood.|
IT is somehow appropriate that the Season, which began in May with the opening of the Royal Academy, should draw to a close against the leafy background of Charlton Woods and the Downs, the setting for Goodwood, the loveliest of our race courses. For many parents the break is welcome. Three months' campaigning to capture the marriage-market with a selling-plate filly is not easy. The programme at least has been varied. Now it is the Downs and valleys of Goodwood for what King Edward VII described as a garden-party with racing tacked on.
Racing at Newmarket is a business; at Goodwood it becomes a leisured pastime. On Trundle Hill the crowd is in holiday mood. Everything and everybody help to soften the blow of losing. Historic facts can be dull, but those linked with Goodwood are not without interest. Here was the scene of a unique hunt. On 26th January, 1738, a dawn meeting at Charlton saw hounds locate an old bitch fox in East Dean Wood shortly before eight o'clock. Ten hours five minutes later the kill was made a couple of miles north of ArundeL.
Those of us who enjoy the racing at Goodwood should raise a glass in memory of the third Duke of Richmond and Gordon. The prototype of the Goodwood Cup took place in the spring of 1801, when the Duke gave permission for members of the Goodwood Hunt and officers of the Sussex militia to run a number of two-mile heats. The following year saw the first public Goodwood race-meeting, when sixteen races were run in three days for 1,001 prize-money a different proposition to the present financial bait, when twenty-four races are worth roughly 29,000 to the winners. There were several phases in the actual development of the racecourse itself.
One of the most remarkable was inaugurated by Lord Cavendish-Bentinck the peer who won a race at Goodwood in 1824, when the riders wore cocked hats. The last half-mile provided doubtful running in dry weather. Bentinck gave orders for the turf to be covered with several inches of mould topped by turf with the grass downwards, then a layer of soil with a final covering of turf. Nowadays, large-scale constructional alterations can be taken for granted. The miracle of Turnberry in Scotland reclaiming its golf links from a concrete plain of wartime runways caused little comment; though the result was astonishing. These Goodwood alterations of a century ago were equally revolutionary, for they were carried out without the aid of bulldozers, tractors and other modern mechanical aids.
The Stewards' Cup ranks as one of the principal sprint handicaps of the season. First run in 1840, won by Epirus from twenty-one challengers, it has produced many exciting finishes. Those who get impatient at delays should have been there in 1864, when the field of forty was thirty minutes late going to start, to which was added a further delay of seventy minutes. A lesson in jockeyship was given in 1888 when Bismarck held a lead of several lengths. He looked certain to win, but his jockey looked round, the horse swerved, and lost to Tib by a head.
The first winner of the Goodwood Stakes in 1823 was Dandijette. The Goodwood Cup was first run in 1812, over three miles. Juvence was the first French-bred horse to win, in 1853; Starke in 1861, was the first American-bred. The Chesterfield Cup may lack a little in popular appeal, but as a handicap it always attracts some of the finest middle-distance horses.