05/26/2006 11:00PM

Araafa turns tables on George Washington


George Washington sank in the quagmire that was The Curragh on Saturday when he went down by two lengths in the $508,000 Irish 2000 Guineas to British invader Araafa, a horse he had beaten into fourth when winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket three weeks ago.

The heavy ground was more than George Washington could handle in the classic mile. It sapped his speed and left him without the devastating turn of foot that had also brought him a pair of Group 1 victories as a juvenile. Araafa, who was giving rider Alan Munro his first classic victory since Generous in the 1990 Epsom Derby, led just inside the three-eighths pole to score the 12-1 upset for trainer Jeremy Noseda and owners Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar. The mud-loving Decado battled on for third, a length behind George Washington.

Araafa had finished 4 3/4 lengths behind George Washington in the Newmarket Guineas on good to firm ground, so it is clear that George Washington was not at his best in the testing conditions at The Curragh. His rider, Kieren Fallon, complained afterward about the "crawling" early pace that helped produce a winning time of just 1:49.85. The 4-7 favorite, George Washington tried to quicken at the halfway mark but drifted left late as Araafa appeared to be going away again at the end.

An Irish-bred son of Mull of Kintyre out of a Polar Falcon mare, Araafa had been third in the Group 3 Horris Hill Stakes last October behind Hurricane Cat, who was only seventh of 11 on Saturday. That is a measure of the improvement Araafa has shown this year as he won for the first time since his Newmarket maiden debut on July 29.

George Washington will get his chance for revenge on June 20, opening day of Royal Ascot, when he is slated to meet Araafa again in the Group 1 St. James's Palace Stakes at one mile.

Meanwhile, Ascot held its pre-opening meeting on Saturday, unveiling its new $350 million grandstand to a select audience of 3,000-plus. The six-race card went off without a hitch, as Partners in Jazz took the featured Victoria Cup Handicap and Akarem landed the listed Buckland Stakes on a new turf course that Frankie Dettori described as "probably the best racecourse in the world."