GLORIOUS GOODWOOD DAY 2 ROUND-UP
They say when the weather's great at Goodwood, it's really great. Equally, when the weather's bad, it's really bad. The latter of those statements has never been truer than on day two of Glorious 2017.
Glorious! Hardly. It started to rain shortly before the Wednesday crowd started to file through the entrances. And carried on. And on. Some 35mm - nearly an inch and a half - fell in six hours, and it wasn't much fun for spectators, horses, jockeys or racecourse staff.
Clerk of the course Seamus Buckley decriibed it as his worst day of weather in his 23 years at Goodwood. He retires at the end of this season and after the stresses of seeing the season's showpiece day so badly hit by the elements, he must be looking forward to it more than ever.
Buckley and his team deserve great credit for keeping the show on the road on a day when the rain lashed down on the track, the parade ring and all areas in between and when by the end of the afternoon you could barely see a furlong up the course from the finish line.
Buckley reported a change in the going at 1.20pm - it altered from good to good to soft after 8.6mm of rain fell in two hours. But that was just the start.
The conditions saw one of the week's headline entries, a first Goodwood runner for top US trainer Wesley Ward, the two-year-old Happy Like A Fool, being withdrawn from the Molecomb Stakes because of the change of ground. It was Ward's only runner of the week - one hopes he will try again next year.
Wednesday's action on the track began with the same theme as day one as another outsider prevailed in the first, the two-mile, five-furlong Matchbrook Betting Exchange Goodwood Handicap Stakes, the longest race of the week.
The field started in front of the grandstand and when they came back to where they began it was Josephine Gordon on the Ian Williams-trained Cool Sky who took the honours at 25/1. Aurora Gray, ridden by Silvestre de Sousa for Hughie Morrison, was second.
Winning handler Williams said: "It's quite bizarre, if I'd got here half an hour earlier I think I might have taken him out. He's got form on good to soft, but he's never been as good over hurdles on the real soft ground. I just thought the ground had probably got soft enough for him. But he's performed great today, and stayed nicely. He looked a bit in trouble with five to go, but Josephine said he galloped all the way to the line."
Gordon, the leading female flat jockey, was pleased with the win and said: "It wasn't easy out there. You can't see much and as Flat jockeys we would not be used to going that far. We went a nice, even gallop and Cool Sky did it smartly, staying on well. I would say Ian Williams has done a good job with him because he does not seem the easiest to train. He had the cheekpieces off today, and I did not want to hit the front too soon, but he never stopped and was happy enough to knuckle down."
Mark Johnston and Joe Fanning have been teaming up for Goodwood success for many years and their first triumph of this week came in the Better Odds With Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap as Londinium (9/1) took a length-and-a-half victory.
Johnston, who has been top trainer at the festival ten times, said: "Joe [Fanning] said he was always travelling really well, he was absolutely cantering at the top of the hill. He was torn then - it is always a hard decision on very soft ground, on one hand you think they won't get home but on the other if you sit still you can lose momentum. He said he just kicked for home, it is very straightforward."
Fanning added: "I was going so well turning in that he sort of took me there and, with the light weight, I thought I should kick on. In that ground you don't want to be sitting there. Before the race, Mark was not worried about the ground. Londinium went on it and seemed to like it. Mark does not tie you down [to instructions]. This lad jumped good, so I was happy to let him bowl along up there. Mark's horses run well here and it is nice to have a winner. It's very wet out there now, and not typical Goodwood weather."
Havana Grey took the Bombay Sapphire Molecomb Stakes at 7/2 while the Markel Insurance Maiden Fillies' Stakes, a six-furlong dash for two-year-olds, completed an impressive Johnston double as William Buick guided Threading to the victory at 12/1.
The EBF Breeders' Series Fillies' Handicap brought a first success of the week for Richard Hannon, who saw Hollie Doyle steer Billesdon Bess to a one-length success.
The last, the Cantor Fitzgerald Handicap Stakes, went to the James Bethell-trained Truth or Dare (6/1), ridden by Daniel Tudhope.
That brought day two to a close - and left the groundstaff waiting and hoping for the rain to stop to allow the remainder of the festival to take place in better conditions and on better ground.