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The Goodwood Festival Generation Wars

Located as it is after that oft-referred to yet inexact period when most three-year-olds reach a level of maturity that enables them to take on and defeat their elders under weight-for-age conditions, the five-day festival has produced more than its share of memorable tussles between the Classic crop and its forerunners.

Goodwood’s two Group One events, the BGC Sussex Stakes and the Blue Square Nassau Stakes, have become synonymous with such rivalries in modern times, but it was not always the case.

The BGC Sussex Stakes was confined to three-year-olds until 1960 when the race was opened to four-year-olds. Older horses were admitted to the line-up for the mile showpiece in 1975, the same year that the Nassau Stakes became an all-aged affair.

Le Levanstell was the first four-year-old with the effrontery to put the Classic generation in its place. Trained in Ireland by Seamus McGrath, the colt was sent off a 100/7 chance for the 1961 Sussex Stakes, with the three-year-olds primarily represented by St James’s Palace Stakes runner-up Eagle, Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Lady Senator and Jersey Stakes winner Favorita.

Sir Peter O’Sullevan called many of the great races at Goodwood and he remembers the 1961 Sussex Stakes as an intriguing affair.

“I remember calling the race in 1961 and I do seem to recall that Le Levanstell rather nicked the race,” he says. “He was given a somewhat opportunistic ride by Bill Williamson, who was particularly effective on him.

“He wasn’t the sort of horse you would have expected to win a Sussex Stakes and was in fact a little bit of a surprise winner. Having said that, he was a fair horse and it turned out that he was in fact a pretty good horse.”

The Irish four-year-old made the running under the canny Williamson until Eagle narrowly took the lead a furlong and a half from home. Not to be denied, Le Levanstell, who had finished third under 9st 12lb in a Curragh handicap the time before and would subsequently defeat the great Petite Etoile at Ascot, reasserted at the furlong-pole. Lady Senator threw down a strong challenge inside the distance but Le Levanstell held his younger rivals through a thrilling climax to prevail by a neck from Eagle with Lady Senator another short-head away.

Le Levanstell’s success did not however herald a rush of triumphs for the older generation. Three-year-olds, the likes of Brigadier Gerard, Kris, Chief Singer, Warning and Zilzal, held their own in all but six of the renewals from 1960 to 1994.

Among those triumphant three-year-olds was the Geoff Wragg-trained Marling. The Edmond Loder homebred had been a brilliant two-year-old, winning all four starts in her juvenile campaign including the Queen Mary and Cheveley Park Stakes. An agonising head defeat in the 1992 1,000 Guineas was followed by victories in the Irish equivalent and the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Marling arrived at Goodwood to face open competition for the first time in the Sussex Stakes. Ranged against her was the previous season’s champion miler, Selkirk. Their epic duel, perhaps more than any other, stands out among the generational clashes that have become an enthralling feature of Glorious Goodwood in the modern era.

“That was a hell of a race,” recalls Sir Peter. “I was big fan of both horses but I remember I had selected Marling and it was a very close call. It was a Grundy and Bustino, almost. Goodwood is such a great stage for the top performers and that was pure theatre.”

A strapping four-year-old chestnut colt, the Ian Balding-trained Selkirk provided a striking contrast to the neat little bay filly as the pair battled through a breath-taking final furlong. Both horses called on their deepest reserves. Marling took the verdict by a nod of her head.

Sayyedati’s 1995 victory marked a definite sea-change. Clive Brittain’s brilliantly resilient five-year-old mare had been a tad unlucky to finish only second and fourth in the previous two renewals of the Sussex Stakes but gained deserved recompense in a tight finish, at the expense of the season’s leading three-year-old miler, Bahri.

Since Sayyedati’s triumph, older horses have redressed the balance somewhat, landing eight of the 14 renewals up to 2008.

When Roussalka won the 1975 Nassau Stakes she made history in becoming the first four-year-old to win the 10-furlong race. Trained by Henry Cecil, the filly had also prevailed as a three-year-old the previous year and thus became the first dual winner of the contest.

As with the Sussex Stakes, that first victory by an older horse in the Nassau did not open the floodgates as 10 years passed before Free Guest, who had won the Extel Handicap at Glorious Goodwood as a three-year-old, as well as the Sun Chariot Stakes, routed the opposition in 1985.

Luca Cumani’s filly went to post the only four-year-old against 10 rivals from the Classic crop that included Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Al Bahathri. That filly had defeated Free Guest over a mile in the Child Stakes at Newmarket the time before, but at Goodwood the three-year-olds were no match as Cumani’s filly put the younger generation in its place with a seven-length victory.

“It was a long time ago but I remember it was a good day. I recall her winning well from some nice three-year-olds,” reflects Cumani.

“Free Guest was a consistent filly who did very well at three and four. She won the Sun Chariot twice so was unlucky to have been around before that race and the Nassau became Group One, otherwise she would have a been a multiple Group One winner.

“She also did well as a broodmare for us and produced Shamshir, who won the Fillies’ Mile and was second in the Oaks. We have many descendants of hers to go with some great memories.”

Glorious Goodwood was privy to two superb clashes of the ages in 1992. After the heroics of Marling and Selkirk on the Wednesday, Saturday brought a mouth-watering encounter between Ruby Tiger and All At Sea.

Ruby Tiger, the darling of Whatcombe, had won the Nassau Stakes by seven lengths the previous year from Free Guest’s daughter, Shamshir. Returning to defend her crown, the five-year-old grey mare found herself pitted against the Henry Cecil-trained three-year-old All At Sea - the odds-on favourite following her second to User Friendly in the Oaks.

Richard Quinn kicked Ruby Tiger to the lead three furlongs out and made for home as Pat Eddery stalked the move aboard All At Sea. The favourite was sent in pursuit but Paul Cole’s tough mare was not to be outdone and dourly held the Warren Place runner by a neck to secure her second Nassau Stakes.

All in all, three-year-olds have come out on top in the clash of the generations with 13 of the last 16 Nassau Stakes falling to the Classic crop.

Since the race became a Group One affair in 1999, three-year-olds have landed seven of 10 instalments. The five-year-old mares Ouija Board and Alexandra Goldrun going head to head for victory in 2006 is something of an exception, with the former just coming out top in a thrilling finish.

Peeping Fawn and Halfway To Heaven, three-year-olds both, have carried the past two Nassau Stakes trophies off to the Ballydoyle, Ireland, stable of Aidan O’Brien.

Irish Oaks winner Peeping Fawn was the dominant filly of 2007 and dismissed the previous year’s French champion three-year-old, Mandesha, with a brilliant victory, while Halfway To Heaven saw off all-comers in a blanket finish last year.

Aidan O’Brien’s Irish 1,000 Guineas winner maintained her advantage at the line by a head from her fast-finishing peer, Lush Lashes. The four-year-old Passage Of Time was a further head back in third with the five-year-old Heaven Sent only a neck away in fourth, proving that the generational war is still raging on the Sussex Downs.




History of Racecourse

Created by the 3rd Duke of Richmond, the first public racing took place at Goodwood in 1802

The first running of the Goodwood Cup was in 1812

The Festival, originally 2 days, was first moved to the end of July in 1814 and became known as 'Goodwood Week'

The Panama hat first made its appearance at the Festival in 1907

Her Majesty the Queen opened the March Grandstand in 1980


The Venue

The total racing surface covers an area of 35 acres

In order to prepare the racing surface, one specialist tractor operates for 960 hours throughout the season

The total area of the Goodwood racecourse site is over 500 acres

The racecourse requires 9 miles of running rail

The longest race of the festival is 2 miles 5 furlongs

600 bags of fertiliser are used throughout the year to prepare the racing surface - a total of 52,000kg

30 tons of topsoil will be needed to repair the racing surface after Glorious Goodwood



102,068 people attended Glorious Goodwood in 2008

The two busiest days in 2008 were Friday and Saturday, which attracted crowds of 23,135 and 24,796 people respectively

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