09/21/2006 12:00AM

Before the Mile comes a clash in QEII


Breeders' Cup Mile clues will abound at Ascot on Saturday, when George Washington attempts to get back on track against his Irish 2000 Guineas conqueror, Araafa, and three Group 1 winners owned by Sheikh Mohammed in the $472,000 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

George Washington had the look of a champion when he won Newmarket's 2000 Guineas in his season debut May 6, but he failed to handle the heavy ground, and Araafa, in his next start, the Irish 2000 Guineas, in which he suffered pulled hip muscles. George Washington returned to the races Aug. 27, when he finished third behind Caradak and Killybegs in the Group 2 Celebration Mile.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien will give Michael Kinane a leg up on George Washington, who is generally available as the 3-2 QEII favorite with British bookies.

Since winning the Irish 2000 Guineas, Araafa has won the Group 1 St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot over the QEII course and distance and finished fifth to Court Masterpiece last time out in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes. Trained by Jeremy Noseda, Araafa will be ridden for the first time by Christophe Soumillon.

Court Masterpiece is one of Sheikh Mohammed's entries, but the only one who will run in the colors of Gainsborough Farm. Trained by Ed Dunlop, Court Masterpiece will, like George Washington, get the good-to-firm ground he loves at Ascot, but he may not be in quite the same league as Sheikh Mohammed's other two entries, Librettist and Proclamation.

Librettist, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, became the first horse to win the Prix Jacques le Marois/Prix du Moulin de Longchamp double since Spinning World turned the trick in 1997, when he also won the Breeders' Cup Mile. A 4-year-old by Danzig, Librettist acts on any kind of ground and brings a 7-for-8 lifetime record into the biggest test of his career.

Godolphin has high hopes for Proclamation, who won the 2005 Sussex Stakes. Proclamation started the season with a third in Royal Ascot's Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes on June 20, but has not run since. Still, he is a threat at 13-2 with Kerrin McEvoy aboard.

Killybegs is a dangerous 40-1 shot. He finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of George Washington in the Celebration Mile, in which he finished second, but if George Washington is back to his best, the others are all in trouble.

o On the QEII undercard, Noseda will saddle Simply Perfect, the one-mile Group 2 May Hill Stakes winner, in the Group 1, $377,000 Fillies Mile. But the preference is for English Ballet, who finished second by 1 1/4 lengths in the May Hill but was giving Simply Perfect three pounds that day. At equal weights, English Ballet may have an edge, although they must both beware of Sesmen, the undefeated Italian invader who last time out won Goodwood's seven-furlong Group 3 Prestige Stakes.