With Ascot’s lamentable calling of the ground ‘soft’ for last Saturday’s King George fresh in my mind, I am highly sceptical that tomorrow’s races will be run on anything like the currently described ‘good to soft’ going. A cambering track twisting out of the Downs, Goodwood is free draining at the best of times. With no rain in the forecast and a drying stiff south-westerly funnelling over Trundle Hill, I am confident good ground horses will be to the fore.
Thus armed with a Met Office forecast, a well-spring of high Summer optimism and nothing else (bar, of course, the innate understanding that Mark Johnston must be backed in handicaps at all costs), I’m anticipating one of the finest spectacles in the horse racing calendar.
Let’s see how much optimism remains after this lot get smashed up in the switchbacks.
2.00 - 1m2f handicap
The job is apparently made simple by kicking off the Festival with a Mark Johnston home banker. He’s won this four times in the last ten years. Trouble is I don’t fancy any of the three he fields here. Senockian Star would make the most appeal, but I think he needs genuinely quick ground, which he won’t get here. I’m eschewing my own advice at the very first opportunity. Instead Master The World is the selection, piloted by Richard Hughes who is a master of his own around this track. 12/1 win.
2.35 – 7f Vintage Stakes
Again I’m passing over the Johnston entries and siding with unexposed Ibn Malik from the red hot yard of Charles Hills. Birchwood is the danger. 6/1 win.
3.10 – 7f Lennox Stakes
I’ve always like this specialist 7f race, but only found the winner once with last year’s Es Que Love. At first glance, this seems like a poor betting heat with Toormore and Dutch Connection heading the market. They have strong claims, but I’m hoping that Ascription at 6-y-o is still improving. He’s missed a lot of racing, so fits the old ‘not many miles on the clock’ adage. Ran well at Haydock over this trip in a Gp 3 in May. 8/1 is a more than fair price on that evidence.
3.45 – 1m6f Summer Stakes
Very tough heat to call. Plenty come with decent form and progressive profiles. So this now, surely, the time to turn to the Master of Middleham. I love the front running attitude of Notarised. Although he has a tough draw and a 7lb hike to overcome, I’ll take a chance with the Johnston inmate at around 8/1.
4.20 – 5f handicap
Top Boy has been running consistently this season and has some reasonable, all important track form on his dance card (as Graham Cunningham insists on saying. What actually is a dance card?) The draw is fine and turf conditions seems to come all the same to him, though the worry is that his best form is on the sand. Taking a chance at 10/1.
4.55 – 6f maiden stakes
Into the realms of mystery. If the day’s selections have not run well, I really don’t want to be relying on this affair to bale me out. Hannon has 5 of the 14 runners. I’m siding with one of them (surely his 2-y-o stats don’t lie). Inland Sea was the archetypal ‘unlucky 4th’ on debut and I feel suckered in to a minimum stakes wager on the basis of that promise. A dangerous 10/1.
5.30 – 1m Turf Club Stakes handicap
A 19 runner handicap to bring the curtain down on Day 1. I like the look of Volunteer Point’s upwardly mobile form and she has claims based on a previous good-ish track and distance effort. This is the right sort of level for her and the ground should be fine. 11/1 is fair.
Nothing to do now but watch the skies and count the winners.