07/30/2009 11:00PM

French coast offers a racing nirvana

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Alex Evers
Breeders' Cup Mile winner Goldikova is among the 11 Group 1 winners nominated to this year's Prix Jacques le Marois. She will also start in Sunday's Prix Rothschild.

NEW YORK - When the rain and humidity at Saratoga or the claimers at Del Mar have finally gotten you down, there's always Deauville, where the weather is warm and mild, and the racetrack is a stone's throw from the beach, upon which presides a world-class casino. The total number of claiming races run during the month of August can be counted on the fingers of two hands, and there are no statebred races anywhere on the horizon as far as one can see across the English Channel.

Deauville's August meeting began on Saturday. The next day will be the first of five big-race Sundays and features the Prix Rothschild (formerly the Astarte), in which Goldikova will take the next step on the road to a defense of her Breeders' Cup Mile title. Deauville will run a record 17 days of racing from through Aug. 30. Its meeting is supplemented by nine weekday dates at Clairefontaine, the charming, flower-bedecked track a mile up the street from Deauville in Tourgeville.

Next Sunday, Deauville will host France's first Win and You're In Breeders' Cup contest, the 6 1/2-

furlong Prix Maurice de Gheest. The last three runnings have been won by the gelding Marchand d'Or, the defending European sprint champ, but this year's renewal will go without him, as he is being given the summer off after a string of disappointing performances. There are, however, eight Group 1 winners among its 30 nominees, so it could well throw up a viable candidate for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, in which the winner has a reserved spot.

Deauville's centerpiece, the Prix Jacques le Marois, goes on Sunday, Aug. 16. The roll of honor for this weight-for-age Group 1 mile includes subsequent Breeders' Cup winners Six Perfections, Banks Hill, Spinning World, and Miesque, who won it before both her BC Mile triumphs. Add the names of Dubai Millennium and Hector Protector, and you get an idea of its stature.

This year's nominees include 11 Group 1 winners, among them Goldikova and Rip Van Winkle, the impressive winner of Wednesday's one-mile Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. One nominee who will not be running in the Jacques le Marois is the Arlington Million-bound Gloria de Campeao.

The feature on Deauville's fourth Sunday (the 23rd) is the six-furlong Prix Morny for juvenile colts and fillies. This race is named for the Duc de Morny, the man who founded both the town of Deauville and the racecourse, which opened for business in 1864, just a year after Saratoga. The Morny has been won by subsequent Breeders' Cup Juvenile winners Arazi and Johannesburg, as well as by top future stallions Machiavellian and Zafonic, future European 3-year-old filly champ Divine Proportions, and Miesque's daughter Coup de Genie. But this year the crop of French juveniles will have a hard time catching Canford Cliffs, the exciting six-length winner of Royal Ascot's Group 2 Coventry Stakes.

On the same day Deauville will host the Prix Jean Romanet, a 1 1/4-mile test for older fillies and mares that has been upgraded to Group 1 status after being won last year by subsequent E.P. Taylor winner Folk Opera. Also on tap that day is the Group 3 Prix de la Nonette, which Urban Sea, dam of Galileo and Sea the Stars, won before her 1993 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victory. Last year, the Nonette runner-up was Treat Gently, a Juddmonte filly who is a possible for Arlington's Beverly D. on Saturday.

Closing day, Aug. 30, is traditionally reserved for the Grand Prix de Deauville. A 1 9/16-mile Group 2, it is the first short-term prep for the Arc, but by that time anyone who has spent the month overindulging in Deauville's many delights is probably itching to get back to Paris.

Not that a typical day in Deauville is arduous. It might begin at 10 a.m. with an hour or two on the beach when the tide is in, making for some delicious bathing. Lunch is essential, if not at a beachfront cafe, then at one of the inviting outdoor restaurants that grace the grandstands at both Deauville and Clairefontaine. After racing, a stop at an in-town cafe for a pick-me-up is followed by dinner at one of Deauville's numerous restaurants, although neighboring Trouville has even more, and they are less expensive. Trouville's Quai Fernand Moureaux is one of the world's great restaurant rows. Highly recommended are Les Vapeurs for French and Le Phenix for Chinese.

A walk along the Promenade des Planches, or boardwalk, prepares one nicely for an evening's entertainment at the Casino Barriere de Deauville. If at the end of the day you have exhausted your life's savings, you can always throw yourself into the Channel. Preferably, head back to the hotel for a few hours shuteye and start all over again the next day. But beware, continued repetition of this regime can lead to incurable addiction. We should all be so lucky.