09/22/2006 11:00PM

George Washington rules QEII


George Washington returned to form at Ascot on Saturday with a scintillating victory in a strong Queen Elizabeth II Stakes field that virtually ensures his election as European champion miler and may well make him the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

His victory in the $475,000 Group'1 weight-for-age mile also capped an Ascot triple for his sire Danehill and his owners Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor, as they were also responsible for Group 1 Fillies Mile winner Simply Perfect and Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes winner Admiralofthefleet.

But it was George Washington's day. Allowed to settle at the back of the nine-horse field by rider Michael Kinane, the 8-5 favorite rallied in hand to lead through the final sixteenth in a 1 1/4-length victory over Araafa, the horse that had beaten him in the Irish 2000 Guineas on May 27. It was another two lengths back to Group 1 Sussex Stakes winner Court Masterpiece in third, with the Godolphin pair of last year's Sussex Stakes winner Proclamation running fifth and two-time French Group 1 mile winner Librettist sixth, 9 1/2 lengths behind the winner. The time for the largely uphill, one-turn, right-handed mile on good to soft ground was 1:40.06.

Kinane said that George Washington "was in control every step of the way," and that he himself "has never ridden a better one." The Aidan O'Brien-trained winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 6, George Washington was out of action for three months after pulling hip muscles in the Irish 2000. He returned with a third-place finish in Goodwood's Group 2 Celebration Mile on Aug. 27. That race appeared to do him a world of good, while the Queen Elizabeth II sets him up perfectly for the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Completing the Danehill/Tabor-Magnier festivities were the winners of the day's two juvenile group races. Simply Perfect, owned by Derek Smith as well as Magnier and Tabor - as is George Washington - but trained in England by Jeremy Noseda, followed her win in the Group 2 May Hill Stakes with a 1 1/2-length victory over Treat in the $380,000 Fillies Mile. Having won the May Hill by 1 1/4 lengths over English Ballet, she defeated that rival, who ran third on Saturday, by 2 1/4 lengths - getting the mile under Darryll Holland in 1:41.89 as the 5-2 second choice.

The $237,000 Royal Lodge Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings went to Tabor, Magnier and the Niarchos family's Admiralofthefleet. Trained by O'Brien and ridden by Kinane, the Kentucky-bred Admiralofthefleet surged to the lead at the eighth pole and went clear for a 2 1/2-length tally over Medicine Path. Admiralofthefleet, a maiden winner who had been third in the Group 3 Superlative Stakes in his previous start, ran the mile in 1:41.06 at odds of 5-1.