Adam Waterworth had a tough act to follow when he succeeded Rod Fabricius as Goodwood’s Managing Director, but in his early days he had worked for two more legends of racecourse administration in Edward Gillespie and Charles Barnett, so he had learned from the best. The beautiful Goodwood Estate comprises some 11,500 acres and it stages a huge range of events and activities besides horseracing, including motor sport, the aerodrome, golf and clay shooting, but when Waterworth was appointed Events Managing Director in 2020 it was at the height of the Covid pandemic and so no events were allowed. The business as a whole is still recovering, while motor sport is thriving, but Waterworth doesn’t shy away from the difficulties faced by horseracing, which has been staged at the West Sussex venue since 1801.
My best memories from about 12 to 16 were of going to Haydock with my father, running up and down the line trying to find the best prices in the era of chasers like Twin Oaks. It was my father who saw an advert in the Sporting Life for the Jockey Club’s graduate scheme, the first year they ran it, and having been accepted I ended up with a placement at Cheltenham under Edward Gillespie. When I graduated a year later, Ed asked me to join him and I was there for a year, before I was lucky enough to get the job as general manager at Huntingdon when only 21 or 22. I had a very happy time there, then at Haydock and Doncaster, before the Goodwood position came up in 2010.
I’ve been incredibly lucky that the opportunities have come up at the right time – when a track like Goodwood comes up you can’t say no. I’ve loved my time at each course, but I’m ambitious and so I was always vaguely looking at what might be the next step. I had big boots to fill following Rod’s retirement but I’d always loved the racecourse and loved the racing side there.
In my 12 or 13 years at Goodwood I’ve been lucky enough to have been given additional responsibilities by the Duke [of Richmond], and now that I’m Events Managing Director I look after all events on the estate. The Festival Of Speed and the Goodwood Revival are two of the biggest events in motor sport and taking them on has helped give me a different perspective when I look at horseracing. The Festival Of Speed is the biggest car culture event in the world and attracts 240,000 people over four days, so it’s on a completely different level to racing here. The Revival gets around 160,000 over three days and, for comparison, ‘Glorious’ gets between 100,000 and 120,000 over five days, and racecourse attendance is perhaps 200,000 over the full season.
Goodwood is an events business and Covid was hugely damaging. We weren’t insured and we had no events whatsoever in 2020, then no paying customers in 2021 until we were allowed to run the Festival Of Speed at 75% of capacity. Thankfully while Royal Ascot missed out that year, we were just on the right side of things when the rules were relaxed. If we hadn’t staged those two events that year it would have been unbelievably bad.
We’ve bounced back, but we are probably between six and ten years behind where we would have been in terms of debt management. It had been looking pretty dark, but fortunately the Festival Of Speed and ‘Glorious’ were a great success. We had a decent end to 2021, followed by a strong 2022, particularly in motor sport, which is on a different level to where it used to be thanks largely to the popularity of Formula 1.
While demand in motor sport continues to grow, horseracing is stalling. Our members are incredibly supportive, and the top end is fine, but in the Gordon and Lennox enclosures it’s a real struggle. I think people still want to do these things, but many can’t afford to and so ticket sales at that end of the market are lower than I’ve ever known them. Horseracing is in a difficult place one way or another.
In order to thrive we have to continue to differentiate ourselves at Goodwood from everyone else. People have to value a day at Goodwood and in that respect we are blessed by our location and surroundings, and by the timing of Glorious Goodwood. But we still need to make sure we get everything right, so that racegoers value a day here ahead of a day on another track or doing something different altogether. With regard to owners, prize-money is a big factor, and it’s important we are seen as a place where on average an owner gets a better return when their horse runs well.
Next year will be the last under our current ten-year deal with Qatar, so we are in conversation about renewal. The deal has been beneficial to us, especially in terms of the investment we were able to make into prize-money and the impact that has had on our international positioning. The enhanced global recognition of Qatar’s brand was what we promised at the outset, and so I’d like to think it’s been positive from their side too. I’m optimistic we’ll have some certainty by the end of the year.
We have three Group 1s at present and we’d love five, but they are limited in number and you have to earn them. We upgraded the Goodwood Cup in 2017 and it’s been a great success, but I think the industry has now recognised the City Of York Stakes as a better fit than the Lennox Stakes for a Group 1 over seven furlongs. Our other possible option for upgrade is the King George Stakes, but the Nunthorpe comes only three weeks later, so it won’t be easy. The money is there though if we could get Group 1 status, and it would obviously make it more attractive to Australian sprinters.