If some deadly enemy had sent over tiny drones to film the British and Irish at summer play, they would have immense insight into our national stamina, fortitude and determination, by simply going to a racing festival, Their cameras, cunningly disguised perhaps as Wasps, might also have led them to ponder about the rather strange game that is Glorious Goodwood. Even I am uncertain as to the rules, but we can probably agree that over five days of any meeting, each player must appear on at least three days and on at least five moments during a sixteen-hour period they must be seen upright and in at at least three different locations, two of which have to be on course. They do not have to be cogent, merely upright. No one knows how many substitutes are allowed, but you can never drink with less than four others. Also, no one knows who wins, or indeed how they win, but this year I was determined to at least attempt victory in the William Jarvis Cup for Trying.
The week started moderately well. I had a lift from Dutch Jimmy and his driver, and we were picking up Bounder One from Didcot and Bounder Two from Petersfield. They were all staying in the Shangri-La Inn of the Second Happiness, although no one in Arundel ever knew what the first Happiness might be. The second, however, was widely regarded as never having to eat the Shangri-La’s food again. En route to the delights of Goodwood, I had downloaded the Hotel’s menu for the boys, knowing that the Shangri-La had prematurely ended many a week’s racing, and tried to persuade them to get their post-race taxi to take them elsewhere for dinner. Despite the vivid descriptions from a menu that focused on Haloumi and Vegetarianism, they remained determined. The pace of their day was rather set by a pit stop at 0930 to get The Racing Post and some 1664 Fighting Juice. The rain sluiced down, but the traffic was sparse so that by 1110 we were seated inside, out of the weather, and with four bottles of Rose and some Guinness, to keep us company. In many sports, technical difficulty is often rewarded with additional points, but while the Goodwood temporary catering staff are in tip-top form by Saturday, requests from the experienced on Tuesday are kept simple. Bounder Two was not experienced and was surprised when his Bloody Mary request was met after an absence of 20 minutes by a very apologetic explanation that they had no Tabasco. Reassured that Lea & Perrins would do, another twenty minutes elapsed before a second apologetic girl told us the Tomato Juice was being delivered on Wednesday. Nil Points for Technical Difficulty.
For me, the rest of the day proceeded smoothly and wetly. The ground got worse and remained soggy and selections remained determined not to run at all, or to lose, but somehow, just being with chums near the sea, made the day OK. At the close of play, I left the boys at Fitzdares Last Post, before the charabanc arrived to take them to Haloumi Heaven. I repaired with The Taipan to our own hotel, the splendid Arugula Arms, where we joined our wives who had been bringing down the baggage trains. Sadly the night proceeded too well and I ended up with Carlos, a former bookmaker, two bloodstock agents and a man from Cork whose accent and capacity for 80-proof Vodka made him incoherent before dinner, but by two in the morning I thought I was getting my ear in.
The next morning speech was beyond me, and writing my name, let alone a column, was too tricky. My hands were shaking so badly, the keyboard simply produced the output of six million monkeys writing Shakespearian sonnets. I managed a breakfast, girded my loins and struggled to the course in better weather and steadier company. On arrival, it appeared that the Boys Innings had collapsed early and Bounder 2 had declared food poisoning at 10.00 pm, fully eight hours after his last prawn, but certainly within an hour of his last bottle of Rose. He had retired back to London hurt, thus maintaining the Shangri-La’s awesome reputation, although perhaps, in his case, unfairly. Bounder 1 looked spry and Dutch Jimmy remained steady. Carlos entertained another very pretty girl, who I was certain I had met at one of Victor Lowndes soirees back in the early 80s, and substitutes arrived to replace some early losses. We had a jolly table of racing chums and being Wednesday the highlight of the day, apart from the Hannon and Balding doubles, was the Tea Stakes. A new event apparently, one of the team ordered four cups of English tea for his fellow-travellers, while The Irish Peer ordered three full English Teas for many of the same chums but with the word “full” misunderstood. Within half an hour it was much like The Sorcerers Apprentice in Fantasia, as never-ending plates of Scones and sandwiches kept magically appearing. The Catering Manager decided that a man who runs three dozen pubs didn’t understand catering and proceeded to take him for a walk around the facilities vaguely haranguing him for his inability to understand his problems with running a catering operation. He then sent the table a dozen bowls of strawberries, by way of apology, but sugar and cream went to another table so that was fine. For dinner, we went to Bosham to The Anchor Bleu to see the famous romance author and her brilliant film-directing-producing husband. I love them both, and despite only seeing them once a year, our conversations continue from date to date. She and I came up with the plot for a new blockbuster for which I retain all TV and Film rights in Azerbaijan. When we got back to The Arugula Inn, the Manager informed me that Carlos was in another room, sitting soft and wanted to buy me a drink. With him were the Asian Miner, a former Lambourn trainer who seemed permanently dressed for surfing or croc-wrangling, and a leading bloodstock agent. We all agreed that William Jarvis had a cracker in Lady Bowthorpe and that we would all be richer tomorrow having invested heavily. I reminded The Asian Miner, that he had once, after a July-Festival lunch at Phantom House, gone into the yard and bought back his two-year-old colt to show me, despite our sitting on the front lawn of the House. Willie’s sudden sobriety and mood change did him credit as he took the skittish little thing back to its box. Only later did he remind his owner of the different responsibilities on that lawn. One was paying and the other was in charge of everything else.
As regards the rest of the evening, it was no surprise to find my trousers covered in white wine and Armagnac as a table collapsed under the Miner’s weight and I “Retired – Hurt”. Plus ca change….
Destroyed by Wednesday night, I took Thursday off, which allowed me to transmit some dreadful tips for which I apologise. I also failed to support my old friend Willie Jarvis whose Lady Bowthorpe success was so richly deserved, because I was overtaken by events. The man from Cork looked startled when I suggested to the general assembly watching the racing on TV, that Aiden O’Brien was not firing on any cylinders and I wondered if anyone had an explanation. Later I discovered that Yer Man was extremely important in the grand scheme of Coolmore things and was effectively God’s Right Hand when it came to Irish racing. I wrote the rest of the day off, covered in confusion. We boxed corporately on Friday and then dined well, but quietly at The Arugula Inn. We thought we would wait until daylight to take a decision on attendance on the final day, but luckily Peter O’Tool persuaded me to attend and the manager of the Inn took us in his car to the course, for which I am sending him a special present. We had a splendid day and thanks to being on the course recognised just how bad the ground was and just how damaging the draw could potentially be. This allowed us to get The Stewards Consolation 1, 3 and the Stewards Cup 1,2,4. This was the only holiday we will get this year and it was brilliant and much needed.
I feel the International Judges should score my Goodwood highly, although I might be in a 5000-way tie-breaker with the rest of the racing industry at York. On Tuesday we had six viewers for the Chateau D’If, which is on the market and Rocky the new ChoccoCocko aged 8 weeks, (as shown above), arrived from the breeder. If you are going to put yourself under pressure this is the way to do it.
I shall be back on Saturday for The Shergar Cup, the Dick Hern and the Sweet Solera.