This week, it perhaps matters less who wins or loses than where the game is played. Goodwood, which launches five days of action this afternoon, and Galway, which hosted the first of seven sessions last night, are both iconic racetracks for subtly different reasons, though stamina, agility and patience are desirable qualities in beast and man at both.
On the Sussex downs, this world-renowned Flat meeting started its life as an upper-class garden party with racing attached. In the west of Ireland, the equally famous festival was born as a sporting event, attended by some fierce "craic". But Yeats' words on his home fixture, Galway, are apposite at either venue: there where the course is, delight makes all of the one mind.
In rare moments of quiet at Galway it is possible to admire, across the eponymous bay, the distant sweep of mountains to the coast in neighbouring Co Clare. But Goodwood's views are better; indeed – so long as the sun shines – glorious. Just as in 1802, when Pantagruel galloped six miles in three heats to win the first race 600 feet up on the March family estate, the English Channel shimmers silver to the south and ripe cornfields glitter gold to the north. The place did not earn its alliterative epithet for nothing.
Its very setting, though, brings a downside. Idiosyncratic is possibly a kind word to describe the oddly shaped track. For horses, athleticism and balance are at a premium. For jockeys, a steely determination. "It's a course that tests you," Martin Dwyer, who has three mounts this afternoon, said yesterday. "It's not one you can just coast round. More than any other track, you've got to think your way round and plan your race. You've got to be aware of what's going on around you and you've got to hold your nerve. It's a course that you maybe get to grips with properly only after riding it more than a few times."
The horses-for-courses concept can be firmly applied; some animals seem actively to enjoy the switchback experience, others loathe it. "You want a tough, hardy sort of horse," said Richard Hughes, who rode five winners at the meeting last year, "who can stay in the zone. For the young ones, it can be a jump in the deep end and for them experience of racing really helps."
The champion jockey Ryan Moore is 11-10 favourite to regain the Goodwood riders' title he took two years ago. Typically, he is phlegmatic about the unique track's challenges. "If you're on a horse that can travel," he said, "it's no more difficult than anywhere else. If they're travelling, they can stay balanced and you can ride your race."
Moore has several chances to get on the leader board this afternoon, none brighter than Main Aim (3.25) for Sir Michael Stoute in the day's Group Two feature. Three runs ago the four-year-old proved his efficacy over this seven-furlong trip, and has since shown that he is capable of holding his own at the top level, fourth over a mile in the Queen Anne Stakes and then second over six furlongs in the July Cup. The drop in grade and return to the intermediate distance should be perfect.
Stoute has won three editions of the Gordon Stakes, the first of the season's recognised St Leger trials, most recently with last year's Classic and Saturday's King George hero Conduit. Today's contender, the well-regarded Harbinger (2.45), can progress past Masterofthehorse, who has changed stables since he ran third in the Derby.
Ringcraft can help splendid little Monsieur Chevalier (4.00) and Hughes prevail in the test of juvenile speed that is the Molecomb Stakes, despite the sharpness of the track. Also suggested are the Mark Johnstone stablemates Quai D'Orsay (4.35) and Lowdown (5.45), from a yard with an excellent record at the meeting.
There is one man who may disagree about the relative merits of the vistas at Galway and Goodwood. At the Ballybrit circuit yesterday evening, Dermot Weld sent out an extraordinary 19th winner of the seven-furlong maiden. The first was Klairvimy 37 years ago. The latest? Stunning View.
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Tanmeya (5.40 Worcester) Still unexposed ex-pointer who scored over the course and distance 13 days ago and returns to fences after a creditable effort over hurdles on the same track last week.
Sarmad (2.00 Beverley) Well-related filly who could go very well at a price after a satisfactory debut performance in a Newmarket maiden that has worked out particularly well.
*One to watch
Watergate (Sir Mark Prescott) ran a respectable fourth on his handicap debut at Newmarket on Saturday after an absence of more than eight months and will improve for the run and, likely, a step up from a mile. Most of his siblings did better over further.
*Chris McGrath's Nap
Alfathaa (2.10 Goodwood).Reuse content