Q. What has been your highlight of the 2018 season?
A. Definitely the summer weather, it was the best summer we have had for years. The five days of ‘Glorious Goodwood’ were the best anyone can remember and this place is just magnificent when it’s sunny. So much work goes into that week, so the great weather capped it off in terms of delivering something special to our customers.
Q. What have been the greatest challenges you have faced this year?
A. We had a security incident on Opening Saturday, which was horrendous to be part of, but I think many good things have come out of it. Our security now is much more visible than it was and I think we sent a strong message. I think people realised how much it upset us personally and saw how much we care about our customers. Sometimes you learn your best lessons from adversity.
We are also always striving to change everything for the better, which means you have to deliver a lot of projects on time and on budget. This year we have worked to create a new café, completely redesigned our betting infrastructure, created a new hospitality offering and built a £2.5m Champagne Bar, requiring a new staircase for the Charlton Stand. It’s a challenge to bring all these projects together, but happily we made it!
Q. Goodwood recently won an RCA Showcase Award for the Magnolia Cup, tell us what that means to you and the team.
A. It is always nice to be recognised amongst your peers in the industry, especially as a lot of customer feedback goes into the judging. It was really great to win an award for the Magnolia Cup presented by Swarovski, as I felt this may have been the best year for that race, both from a coverage point of view and operationally. The stories that came from that race made it humbling to be a part of and it also raised a huge amount of money for Cancer Research UK.
As I mentioned, we put a lot of effort into our operations this year – and will continue to do so going forwards – so to also see that recognised at the RCA Awards by being Highly Commended in Operational Excellence was extremely satisfying. It’s a very glamorous occasion and to walk away with some awards is the icing on the cake. It has been a difficult year, but it has been a good year and the awards are a great way to end it.
Q. Was there any inspiration behind your excellent choice of trousers?
A. Yes, they are an ancient Buchanan Tartan which is from my mother's side of the family.
Q. You have been the General Manager at Goodwood Racecourse for the best part of four years. What have you most enjoyed in that time?
A. Everyone would say that the team around you is important as you work with them every day, and I think the team is in a really good place – we have some really good people doing some wonderful things.
I love going to any sporting venue where you can still feel the energy, even when the place is empty. I think at Goodwood I feel the 200 years of excitement reverberating around the structures every day, it’s a really nice feeling. I work somewhere that is other people’s hobby.
Q. A tough question for any racing enthusiast, but who would you name as the best horse you have seen running at Goodwood?
A. We have perhaps never quite seen a better horse than Frankel, but I would say that the way Battaash won this year’s King George Qatar Stakes would be the most impressive performance I have seen. I thought Winter was an impressive filly in the Nassau [in 2017], but I would say I feel most affection towards Stradivarius and Big Orange, as they are multiple winners of the Qatar Goodwood Cup, a race that has been upgraded to Group 1 since I have been here. What Stradivarius achieved before and after his win here this year, as well as his performance in the race itself, is incredible.
Q.What can racegoers expect in 2019?
A.Racegoers can look forward to a new big screen in the Gordon Enclosure, which will be a big project to undertake during the winter. There are still changes and upgrades to be made to the betting infrastructure, in particular within the March Stand, and we are doing a host of smaller changes around eating and seating, focussing on all the things that are important to customers on a raceday. For example, we are redesigning the East Parade Lawn to give that space more of a festival vibe. We are also making improvements to some of our hospitality spaces, such as the Charlton Boxes and Sussex Bistro.
We are working hard to make the Qatar Goodwood Festival more of a global event, something that has been in progress for the last five years. But the other racedays are building their own identities and gaining a following of their own. The number of runners per race has increased in 2018 and that is also something we are keen to encourage.
Tickets are now on sale for the 2019 season at advance prices.