Glorious Goodwood on tap this week

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July 27th, 2015

After Royal Ascot and Newmarket's July Meeting, the English summer season rolls on down to Sussex for "Glorious Goodwood," which runs Tuesday through Saturday. I should note that due to new sponsorship, the five-day meeting is now properly called the "Qatar Goodwood Festival," but old habits -- and time-honored descriptions -- die hard.

A famously sharp right-handed course, whose downhill contours test agility, Goodwood is currently soft. The clerk of the course expects conditions to improve over the ensuing days, so be sure to watch the evolving ground descriptions.

Tuesday's highlights are a pair of seven-furlong contests, the Vintage (G2) for two-year-olds (9:35 a.m. - all times EDT) and the Lennox (G2) for three-year-olds and up (10:10).

Birchwood, winner of the Superlative (G2) at Newmarket last out, is the most accomplished juvenile in the Vintage. But he's conceding three pounds to some really promising sorts who could be ready to make a splash at this level. Strong Challenge broke his maiden down the straight six furlongs here for Saeed bin Suroor, beating eventual Prix Robert Papin (G2) winner Gutaifan, while the beautifully bred Welford has won two straight at this trip for Mark Johnston. Ibn Malik beat a couple of next-out winners in his fine debut at Newmarket, and Galileo Gold proved adept on softish ground when capturing a novice event at Haydock.

Toormore is the favorite in the Lennox, both as a course-and-distance specialist and in light of his form versus Group 1 rivals. His leading rival, sophomore Dutch Connection, is back at his optimum trip after a terrific near-miss in the Prix Jean Prat (G1) over a mile. Also a winner here as a juvenile, Dutch Connection can upstage Toormore if the going doesn't blunt his speed. Safety Check is another known Goodwood quantity, but he's making his first start back from Dubai on ground softer than he likes -- and as a vulnerable 133-pound highweight. An enticing longshot is Aeolus, who has been rejuvenated by the switch to Ed Walker this term and will love the rain-softened ground.

Wednesday serves up a trio of Group races, highlighted by the Sussex (G1) over a mile (10:10 a.m.). In the absence of Gleneagles, Freddy Head's Solow looks very tough to beat. But Goodwood can be a tricky course that doesn't suit everyone, and this is a sharper mile than Ascot's stiff straight. I'm convinced that Night of Thunder just ran flat when fifth to Solow in the Queen Anne (G1) last time, so that bare result may not be indicative. Bigger prices will be available on the three-year-old Belardo, who has something to prove on form but is a different horse when it rains, and Arod, who has made early speed his weapon of late.

One race earlier, the 1 1/2-mile Gordon (G3) (9:35 a.m.) helps to sort through candidates for the St Leger (G1). The Aidan O'Brien-trained Highland Reel won the Vintage here last summer, but other than his second in the French Derby (G1), he's been disappointing. Judging by how he ran in the Irish Derby (G1), I'm not sure he really wants this trip, although the drop in class could make all the difference. In contrast, the step up to this distance could help Disegno, who exits a fourth to the exciting Time Test at Royal Ascot. Soft ground clearly suits the progressive Medrano, while well-bred, lightly-raced Scottish has scope to keep improving off his second to Space Age.

The Molecomb (G3) (10:45 a.m.) showcases speedy juveniles barreling down the straight five furlongs. Washington DC's cause is hurt by the rain, but King of Rooks could appreciate it and bounce back from his loss in the Norfolk (G2). Kachy, whose granddam Mary Read was second in the Molecomb, toppled the more experienced Muhadathat in his Chester debut. Lathom, a winner on softish going in his premiere, comes off a narrow victory in the lucrative Weatherbys Super Sprint. Rouleau, a half-brother to Group 1-winning juvenile Amadeus Wolf, has won his last pair over six furlongs and tries five for the first time.

Thursday's feature is the two-mile Goodwood Cup (G2) (10:10 a.m.). Final entries will be announced Tuesday, but Ascot Gold Cup (G1) hero Trip to Paris, Princess of Wales's (G2) upsetter Big Orange, Simenon, Eye of the Storm, and Quest for More are among the principals.

John Gosden's good-looking two-year-old Shalaa has been ticketed for the Richmond (G2) (9:35 a.m.) since his breakout score in Newmarket's July (G2) over this six-furlong trip. O'Brien's possibles are Railway (G2) winner Painted Cliffs and Coventry (G2) runner-up Air Force Blue, but either or both could aim for the August 9 Phoenix (G1) instead. Rounding out Thursday's Group action is the Lillie Langtry (G3), aka the Markel Insurance Fillies' Stakes (10:45 a.m.), over 14 furlongs. Arabian Comet, just denied in this race a year ago by the gutsy Missunited, was most recently fourth to Jordan Princess in the Aphrodite at Newmarket.

Friday's program includes four Group events - the 1 1/2-mile Glorious (G3) (9 a.m), which could feature Luca Cumani's upwardly mobile Connecticut, Qatari star Dubday, Canadian International (G1) winner Hillstar, and Windshear; the one-mile Thoroughbred (G3) for three-year-olds (9:35 a.m.), with St James's Palace (G1) runner-up Latharnach and Sir Michael Stoute's debut romper Convey among a contentious group; the King George (G2) over five furlongs for three-year-olds and up (10:45 a.m.), a lively contest with many of the usual suspects -- e.g., Muthmir, past winners Moviesta and Take Cover -- as well as the bright new face of Cotai Glory; and the seven-furlong Oak Tree (G3) for distaffers (11:55 a.m.), aka L'Ormarins Queen's Plate, where Fadhayyil, Osaila and New Providence are among the eyecatching names.

Anchoring the Saturday card is the Nassau (G1) for fillies and mares at about 1 1/4 miles (10:10 a.m.). Although Legatissimo, Diamondsandrubies and Star of Seville all boast major successes already, Lady of Dubai is very interesting to me. The Cumani filly could not have been more impressive when bolting up, in hand, in the May 21 Height of Fashion over this course and distance. She was subsequently third in the Oaks (G1) at Epsom, but a cutback in trip and return to Goodwood promise to put her in a better light.

Addendum: Note that champion jockey Richard Hughes, the leading rider at Glorious Goodwood for four straight years (2010-13), is retiring at the end of the meeting. "Hughesie" would like nothing better than to go out on a high note here. According to the media guide, he has ridden a total of 54 winners at Glorious Goodwood, second only to Frankie Dettori (58) among currently active jockeys.