The ‘horse race’ which takes place at night by candlelight

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  • During this week’s Qatar Goodwood Festival (30 July-3 August), a unique kind of horse race takes place amid candlelight on the lawns of Goodwood House.

    The famous contest between two horses is a popular highlight of the Regency Ball, which took place on Thursday evening (1 August).

    Described as a “truly magical and uplifting sight”, the horse race takes place through the parkland in the black of night — with the course lit with flares just as it was in the 18th Century.

    The spectacle is reminiscent of the inaugural public race meeting held at Goodwood by the third Duke of Richmond in 1802, during which the Duke and his horse, Cedar, were beaten by the Prince of Wales on Rebel, who collected the winning pocket of 100 guineas.

    With guests dressed in regency attire, Goodwood House comes alive and has been described as like walking onto a film set.

    The horses used in the “race” are retired thoroughbreds and, with their riders, they go head-to-head, completing five circuits of the track.

    The raceweek Regency Ball also honours the commitment of the inspirational women taking to the Goodwood Racecourse turf in the annual charity race, the Magnolia Cup. Over £100,000 has been raised for this year’s charity, Wellbeing of Women.

    “The Regency Ball horse race was wonderful to watch,” says BBC South weather presenter and journalist Alexis Green, who was one of the 12 lady riders taking part in the Magnolia Cup and finished second behind 18-year-old Khadijah Mellah.

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    “The race started after dinner at around 10.30pm, with guests climbing through the large sash windows out onto the lawn to watch — which was also a brilliant sight in itself!

    “We all stood behind a rope fence by the start while the two horses and their jockeys were paraded. We were able to bet on a horse to win — £50 per bet — which went to charity. Once they had started, we all cheered them on as they cantered past each time. Many of the guests were dressed up in regency costume — it was a truly lovely atmosphere.”

    Don’t miss our full report from the Qatar Goodwood Festival in the 8 August issue of Horse & Hound. For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss the magazine — on sale every Thursday.

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