Robin Oakley

The turf | 4 August 2016

An intriguing theory attempts to explain why altitude may have played a role in Mark Johnston’s remarkable record

Sometimes the labels people give themselves are more than mere braggadocio. Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali if you must) really was ‘The Greatest’. For me Tina Turner’s exultant ‘Simply the Best’ was never bettered in its genre, and Glorious Goodwood manages year after year to live up to the name it has happily exploited since it was coined by an alliteratively minded journalist before the second world war. Sponsorship does not always improve things but the additional funds now provided by Qatar have only enhanced Goodwood’s appeal. Their funding means, for example, that the Sussex Stakes, the first clash of the year between the top three-year-old milers and their elders, is now the third richest race in Britain after the Derby at Epsom and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Of course the downland backdrop helps: watching racing at the most beautiful course in the world amid lightly wrapped fillies competing with a sporting breeze does add to the attraction, except on days like last Thursday when the sea fret comes in sideways and the commentator struggles with only two furlongs in clear view. But for me the extra ingredient is Good-humoured Goodwood. Staff wish you a good day as if they really mean it and everyone seems to have an extra minute to share a memory or anecdote. So many things contributed to this year’s rich tapestry. For a start, there was the sight of those two Goodwood titans Mark Johnston and Sir Michael Stoute beaming over multiple victories. Shortly after Paul Hanagan had weaved his way through an equine thicket to deliver Sir Michael’s Thikriyaat, the victor in a Group Three mile ahead of his stable companion Forge, I stooped to retrieve a Tote betting ticket that appeared to have dropped at the great trainer’s feet.

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