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  Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Goodwood's family affair
The Sussex Downs provide a magnificent backdrop at Goodwood
The Sussex Downs provide a magnificent backdrop
This year marks the 200th anniversary of officially recorded racing at Goodwood.

To mark the occasion, the meeting's top five-furlong sprint has been moved from the Tuesday to the Thursday and renamed the King George 200th Anniversary Stakes.

It was the third Duke of Richmond who founded the course two centuries ago although he was not exactly a racing fan.

His decision to lay out a racetrack high on the Sussex Downs came from a sense of duty to the officers of the local militia, of which he was colonel.

For many years, the officers had held their annual races in nearby Petworth Park but when that came to an end in 1801, the Duke stepped in to help out.

The first two-day meeting was such a success that the racing was extended to three days the following year.

Action from the 1997 Stewards' Cup
The Stewards' Cup was first run in 1840

It was the first Duke of Richmond who had purchased the Goodwood estate in 1695.

His grandson, who also commissioned the first ordnance survey maps, decreed that a course should be laid out within the estate.

In 1812, during the tenure of the next duke, the Goodwood Cup was run for the first time and two years later, the meeting was moved from May to its current position in late July.

This switch of dates greatly enhanced the social status of the meeting.

It meant the festival now coincided neatly with the end of the London season and provided another jolly for the aristocracy before they retired to their country estates for the remainder of the summer.

It was a friend of the fifth duke, Lord George Bentinck, who came up with some reforms at Goodwood that were in turn adopted by the rest of the racing world.

He equipped the starter with a flag, fined the Clerk of the Course if races were sent off late and insisted that horses carried the same number as was written on the racecard.

He also instigated the parading of horses in front of the stands and set aside areas for saddling and unsaddling.

Goodwood also has an annual
Goodwood also has an annual "festival of speed"

During this period of efficiency, the inaugural Stewards' Cup was held in 1840.

The course's innovation continued into the 20th century with Goodwood the first course to use the public address system to provide racegoers with commentary in 1953.

The ninth Duke of Richmond introduced radical measures of a different sort - he turned part of the huge Goodwood estate into a motor racing circuit and other leisure facilities, include a flying school and golf club, were also added.

But it is horse racing that is most associated with Goodwood, whose popularity mushroomed after World War II with a record crowd of 55,000 turning up for the first day of the July meeting in 1953.

Spurred on by such demand, officials added other dates to Goodwood's calendar in 1965.

The May meeting was introduced in 1968 while the July meeting was extended to five days with the addition of the Saturday card.

Since then, there has been much development of the course, including new stands being built and a new paddock development which opened last year.

But great care has been taken not to diminish the splendour of the setting, which renders the course one of the most beautiful in the country and the July meeting one of the highlights of the sporting summer.


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Day One

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