The Secret Racegoer’s Guide to Glorious Goodwood
It was on the third day that the land and the sea were created and God saw that it was good.
In a corner of West Sussex, racegoers saw that it was not just good, it was glorious – Glorious Goodwood.
But if the view of the land and the sea is glorious on the Duke of Richmond’s estate, there are aspects of the racecourse which are not so pleasing.
The nearest station to Goodwood is in the county town of Chichester, with trains from London, Brighton and other south coast towns and cities.
Trains from London depart from Victoria twice an hour and, via Clapham Junction, East Croydon and Gatwick, take about 90 minutes, sometimes longer. Beware however of Sunday engineering works – this route covers a lot of track and is prone to replacement buses.
Once past Horsham the scenery becomes interesting, not least the view of Arundel’s castle and cathedral.
At Chichester, there’s a regular bus service which leaves the station car park and takes a good 30 minutes to get to the course, and often longer since one of the roads through the Duke of Richmond’s estate was closed a few years back resulting on a bottleneck as traffic approaches the racecourse.
There’s a fare to pay for the Festival meeting, but otherwise it’s free. If you are in a hurry to catch a return train after racing, a taxi will take just under 15 minutes if the traffic is flowing.
It’s the view across the track looking back at the South Downs that earns the glorious tag – there probably isn’t finer scenery to be seen on a British racecourse, with only Killarney in Ireland offering any competition.
But equally impressive is the vista from the back of the stands looking out over Chichester and the cathedral spire, Bognor on the coast with its landmark Bedouin style Butlin’s holiday camp complex, and the Solent with the Isle of Wight on the horizon.
That said, all of this can disappear if a sea fret rolls in over the track.
Goodwood is one of those tracks where watching from the grandstand (Gordon) enclosure offers just as good a view as the premier (Richmond) enclosure – which is just as well as the Richmond is only available to annual members (and their guests) during the five-day festival. And it’s here that Goodwood displays its less appealing side.
Should an annual member acquire a badge for a guest, it’s going to set them back an eye-watering £89 (up £4 in two years). On top of that, there’s a £3 handling-charge, so that Goodwood can send your badge by second-class post.
The Gordon (grandstand) enclosure, where tickets are readily available, costs a mighty £49, albeit the price has been held for a couple of years.
Compare that to York’s Ebor meeting later in August: the grandstand admission is £33; the County Stand (premier enclosure) is £59. The latter will include the racecard.
A criticism that can be levelled against Goodwood is greediness.
Should you wish to become an annual member and you’ve worked your way to the top of the waiting list, there’s a £150 joining fee. If you want reserved seats, that’s a further charge.
And Goodwood are at the forefront of identifying opportunities for racegoers to ‘upgrade’ to special packages just to squeeze the extra dollar from customers’ pockets.
Yet the people turn up in their droves and Goodwood know that they can charge these prices with relative impunity.
It’s also fair to say the facilities are top notch. The landscaped paddock and parade ring behind the pavilion style stands afford an excellent view of the runners pre-race, walked round-anti-clockwise, and a big screen opposite the stands is well positioned. A further screen is positioned down the straight beyond the Lennox enclosure.
The looped track sweeps away from the enclosures although the sprint starts are hidden behind rising ground, with other starts way off in the distance.
It’s a fine view, with binoculars, of the horses racing against a backdrop of trees and farmland on the rolling countryside.
There’s barely a building in sight.
But, be warned, at certain fixtures the positioning of fun fair rides has blocked some of the track from those watching in the stands, including those who’ve paid extra for reserved seating.
Eating and drinking
Goodwood offers a good choice of food and drink outlets, with fine dining in two Richmond enclosure restaurants, with further restaurants in the Gordon enclosure and the paddock, and a cafeteria in the Gordon enclosure. If you feel you’ve been fleeced in paying for admission, at least the restaurants are competitively priced in terms of event catering.
Mobile food outlets are plentiful with many sourcing produce from the estate, but this means pricing is very much at the top end of the scale – a beef roll is £8.
You are never far away from a bar although the options in the Richmond stand are not so plentiful since the bar at the top of the stand became an exclusive facility for annual members. There is, however, a splendid new open-air bar at the west-end of the parade ring.
Goodwood is expensive and unnecessarily so. The five-day festival boasts a handful of quality races and competitive handicaps, but there’s some mediocre fare in there as well. Similarly, other fixtures might have the odd Class One races but nothing you’d call exceptional and nothing which seems to justify the cost of getting in.
But once you are there, and the weather is fine, you’ll not see racing in a more, yes, glorious part of the world.
More from Goodwood
Goodwood Cup horse-by-horse guide http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2mo
Secret Racegoer’s Goodwood guide http://wp.me/s8e3Dl-9066
The Secret Racegoer encounters knotty problems http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-244