This was Good­wood without the glo­ri­ous

Pun­ters scurry for cover as the charm­ing Sus­sex course is bat­tered by gales, writes Alan Ty­ers

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Racing -

Alarge plas­tic bag blew across the home straight, mak­ing all the run­ning from a black-jack­eted pur­suer, who was giv­ing his op­po­nent sev­eral pounds. He even­tu­ally hauled it in not far from the fin­ish line.

The rain drove down. A few yards away, a bale­ful trom­bon­ist wiped the drips from his spectacles be­fore he and his com­rades-in-brass of the Bri­tish Im­pe­rial Mil­i­tary Band struck up.

Damian Wil­son, a cam­era op­er­a­tor, ner­vously eyed what was shortly to be­come his perch in the crow’s nest atop the Charl­ton Stand. “The cam­era shakes in the wind, it’s like when you point a gun a mil­lime­tre out when you aim, and then it is feet out at the other end,” he said.

It was Good­wood, but not as we know it. The fore­cast was for sound and fury, and a tree down on the train line was an early harbinger, with this uniquely lovely race­course’s hilly splen­dour mak­ing it ideally ill-suited for high winds.

The weath­er­per­son had it right, al­beit per­haps a bit ear­lier than the worst fears. The gates had hardly opened when the heav­ens did too, send­ing staff to haul pro­mo­tional flags to safety, bar work­ers to rush as they fer­ried crates of drinks around, and chefs to won­der if poached salmon might be bet­ter re­placed with mul­li­gatawny soup.

With only mad dogs and English­men out in the noon­day rain, the few women who had stuck gamely to sum­mer head­wear were sen­si­bly seek­ing shel­ter, and the Good­wood mer­chan­dise stall’s two most promi­nently dis­played items were play­ing out a mis­match: Golf Um­brel­las 6, Panama Hats 0. Alas, at least one hat was seen leav­ing its owner to take wing, as the promised gusts came to pass dur­ing both the first and sec­ond races.

Down by the side of the track, the wind was mak­ing the safety rails rat­tle and sing and hum, the sound that a train makes when ap­proach­ing. This eerie sound­track was soon joined by an­other voice: you would not have thought it pos­si­ble for a steel band to ex­ist this far re­moved from its nat­u­ral habi­tat, but al­though the Carib­ana Steel Band were stick­ing gamely to their work, the trio found even their jolly tones tak­ing on a plain­tive, mi­nor key. The Se­cret Gar­den tea lawn re­mained not so much se­cret as des­o­late, a sin­gle up­turned chair ly­ing, felled, on the grass.

Mean­while, the lady in the coat check was en­joy­ing the qui­etest af­ter­noon in mem­ory, for the sim­ple rea­son “that every­body still has their coat on” and by the time of the third race, Phoebe and Caitlin in the ice cream truck had shifted just three.

The man sell­ing the Time­form race cards was un­moved by the hor­i­zon­tal rain. “I’m from York­shire, this is just a nor­mal day for me,” he said.

By mid-af­ter­noon the winds had abated some­what and the worst of the rain had passed. Lo­cal knowl­edge was in­valu­able, the Duke of Rich­mond, the Good­wood head man, bun­dled up in a vo­lu­mi­nous mus­tard mack­in­tosh. The band played Waltz­ing Matilda – one hopes that Aus­tralian Ashes am­bi­tions find them­selves sim­i­larly rained upon – and, every­one hopes, the Glo­ri­ous­ness will ar­rive later in the week.

Heavy go­ing: Race­go­ers brave the el­e­ments at Good­wood yes­ter­day

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