06/16/2007 12:00AM

George Washington runs on opening day


The annual five-day Royal Ascot meeting, one of the world's great racing festivals, begins with a bang on Tuesday with George Washington, Cockney Rebel, and a battalion of Australian sprinters entered for day one.

The main attraction, of course, will be George Washington, the brilliant four-time Group 1 winner who was retired after last season to become a stallion. Fertility problems, however, have led to him to making a surprise return to racing, and Tuesday he runs in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at a mile.

George Washington has always been difficult to handle so it will be interesting to see if his Irish trainer, Aidan O'Brien, has the colt's mind off covering mares and back into racing.

His principal rivals Tuesday will be Red Evie and Ramonti, first and second in last month's Lockinge Stakes. Dark Islander, winner of the Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita last October, is another interesting candidate.

In another mile race on Tuesday, the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes, Cockney Rebel, Europe's top 3-year-old male miler following victories in both the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas, renews his rivalry with Dutch Art .

Unbeaten as a 2-year-old, Dutch Art finished third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Cockney Rebel, in the English Guineas. But those two raced on opposite sides of the course that day and some believe that Dutch Art would have won if he had been drawn next to the 25-1 winner.

O'Brien will again be strongly represented here, as he trains five of the 11 possible runners, including French 2,000 Guineas winner Astronomer Royal.

Takeover Target returns from Australia to defend his crown in the five-furlong Group 2 King's Stand Stakes. The Joe Janiak-trained gelding went on to win the Global Sprint Challenge series last year. Takeover Target will have three compatriots among his opponents, including Miss Andretti, who won the first two legs of the 2007 Global Sprint Challenge, both run in Melbourne in February.

The European runners are headed by Les Arcs and Dandy Man, the 2006 champion sprinters of Britain and Ireland, respectively.

Another big race on day one is the Coventry Stakes, for 2-year-olds over six furlongs. Henrythenavigator, a son of Kingmambo who was a brilliant winner of his debut, is likely to be favored.

* The Royal Ascot meeting will be televised in the United States on TVG, the Television Games Network.