Memories of Glorious Goodwood by Cornelius Lysaght

Memories of Glorious Goodwood by Cornelius Lysaght

Four decades on from my first visit to Glorious Goodwood, memories of day two of that year’s festival remain crystal clear, and, not for the first nor the last time, the drama was down to the vagaries of the course and a consequential inquiry by the stewards. 

Going into the fixture in 1983 one of the talking points was the presence in Wednesday’s Group Two Richmond Stakes of Vacarme, an apparent star two-year-old in the making, trained by Henry Cecil and the mount of Lester Piggott who would be wearing the blue silks of the vastly rich but quite spoilt French-based art dealer and breeder/owner Daniel Wildenstein.  

Having blitzed his rivals on debut at Ascot, the colt was sent off as 3-1 on favourite; however, as the half-dozen principals crowded together in true Goodwood style in the final stages of the six furlongs, Piggott found himself in a position where his mount was travelling supremely well but was without racing room so he made a sharp manoeuvre for a gap in front of the weakening Pacific King on the inside rail into which Vacarme accelerated impressively before going on to success in a near-record time. 

It was thrilling stuff, described by many as one of the great Piggott rides, and clearly the best horse had won, but the stewards saw it differently.

After a lengthy inquiry during which more than one incident was considered, to general disbelief, they disqualified Vacarme for impeding fifth-placed Pacific King, placing him last as the rules at the time stipulated and banning his jockey for five days for careless riding. 

To add to a sense of mayhem they also reversed the second and third – Creag-An-Sgor and Godstone – because of separate interference late on meaning Godstone got the race despite being comprehensively-defeated.

Wildenstein and his family, who were famously controversial figures, falling out with and switching trainers on a regular basis, blamed the jockey for losing an “unloseable” race, a description that is even more nonsense at Goodwood than anywhere else.

With its twists and turns and its pronounced undulations, the downland course is as unpredictable – particularly the round track – as it is picturesque, to the extent that a trainer-friend maintains his big dread is when a jockey comes into the paddock saying he will be riding his mount “for luck” because, he believes, “at Goodwood you hardly ever get any luck”. 

In 2023 once again there will be plenty of examples of runners being ‘all dressed up with nowhere to go’, but two jockeys who will almost certainly not be on any of those horses are either Joe Fanning or Ryan Moore. 

Fanning, whose prolific association with, first, trainer Mark Johnston, then Mark in partnership with his son Charlie and now Johnston junior on his own, has been one of the highlights of Goodwood festivals in recent years, is brilliant at getting into a rhythm in front, thereby missing out on the inevitable scrimmaging, and staying there, particularly on horses drawn low in seven-furlong and mile races, when a single-figure stall seems particularly essential. 

Moore, meanwhile, may be a master wherever he happens to be in a race, but seeing him at Goodwood winding up his horse for a withering challenge down the outside – again almost certainly avoiding trouble – is honestly like poetry in motion. 

Moore and Fanning are sure to be amongst the best riders to follow in 2023 – along with their respective principal trainers Aidan O’Brien and Charlie Johnston –  while it will be a surprise if the retiring Frankie Dettori doesn’t feature as well at a venue at which he has shone since riding his first British winner here in 1987. His main stable – that of the Gosdens – is sure to be right up there too. 

Fingers crossed the stewards don’t have to play too big a part in proceedings this time but I wouldn’t bet on it – it is Goodwood after all.