03/31/2006 12:00AM

New facility, showdown add to Ascot's allure

APRH Photo
Hurricane Run, winning last fall's Prix de l 'Arc de Triomphe, could make his 2006 debut later this month.

NEW YORK - While famous 18th century names such as George Washington and Horatio Nelson dominate the early spring classic conversation, the most eagerly anticipated event of the new European flat racing season is the unveiling of Ascot's 21st century, $350 million grandstand on May 27.

That Saturday afternoon will serve as a dry run for the official opening of the ultra-modern, state-of-the-art edifice on the opening day of the five-day Royal Ascot meeting on June 20. The new but still staunchly traditional Ascot will have something for everyone, including a repositioned paddock immediately behind the grandstand designed to simplify the previously arduous task of seeing the horses in the parade ring, getting a bet down, and still being able to find your place in the stands before the start of a race.

Designed by HOK Sport+Venue+ Event, the same outfit that gave the world Sydney's fabulous Millennium Olympic Stadium, the new Ascot grandstand will be a glass and light-filled affair. As such it will be a welcome contrast to the former building which, although built in 1961, retained any number of shadowy Victorian corners as well a good deal of nondescript mid-20th century architecture.

As workmen apply the finishing touches to Ascot, Doncaster will be undergoing a reincarnation of its own. Home of the world's oldest classic, the St. Leger Stakes, Doncaster will be closed this year while it erects its own new grandstand. The track's 15 days of flat racing will be parceled out to five different racecourses with the Sept. 9 St. Leger going to York, the track that stood in for Royal Ascot last year.

There is a new 50,000-capacity grandstand in the works at The Curragh as well. At a cost of $120 million, Ireland's premier racecourse will replace its current stand, one of the ugliest in the world. Racing will continue at The Curragh through 2006 as work progresses on the new structure, which will include a National Museum of Racing. The project is scheduled to be completed in two phases, the first, five-story building due for completion in time for the Irish Derby in late June 2007, the second, a four-story affair, set to open a year later.

That is, as long as the track gets permission to build. The project has yet to win government approval and a local group called the Friends of the Curragh Environment is protesting the project to the High Court of Dublin.

There will be no new grandstands in France this year, but stakes purses there have been increased from 6 percent to 8 percent. French listed races go from 47,000 euros to 50,000 euros ($60,000). Group 3's have been raised from 75,000 euros to 80,000 euros ($96,000), while Group 2's have been increased from 120,000 euros to 130,000 euros ($156,000).

In Germany, champion trainer Andreas Schutz has left his Cologne base for Hong Kong. Schutz, who has trained five German Derby winners, did not apply for a license in purse-poor Germany this year. He will have his first runners in Hong Kong at the start of the 2006-07 season in September.

Horatio Nelson is the current favorite for the Epsom Derby. In the past, his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, has used both the Ballysax Stakes (April 23) and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (May 14) as preps for his Derby candidates. In the meantime, O'Brien has announced that his European juvenile champions, George Washington and Rumplestiltskin, will head to Newmarket for their respective Guineas dates without the benefit of a prep race. Both two-time Group 1 winners at 2, George Washington is the favorite in the 2000 Guineas while Rumplestiltskin is the current bookies' choice in the 1000, in which second favorite and Fillies Mile winner Nannina will also run without a prep.

British bookies currently list Discreet Cat as the 5-1 co-favorite with Brother Derek for the Kentucky Derby, but Godolphin has already warned that its UAE Derby winner is not certain to run at Churchill Downs. If he does, he will probably go without another prep. Godolphin even hints he might skip the Derby and go straight to the Preakness. Godolphin also has a powerful bunch of recently purchased older horses in the miler Proclamation and fillies Shawanda and Gonbarda, all Group 1 winners.

The new grandstand is not the only reason to be at Royal Ascot this summer. The Prince of Wales's Stakes there on June 21 looms as the early season race of the year between Dubai World Cup winner Electrocutionist and Dubai Duty Free winner David Junior. Both will be kept on turf until arriving at their mutually ultimate goals of the season, the Breeders' Cup Classic.

European Horse of the Year Hurricane Run could return to action in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp on April 30. He will be aimed by Andre Fabre at a defense of his Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe title on Oct. 1, when he could run into stablemate and Breeders' Cup Turf winner Shirocco and Japanese Horse of the Year Deep Impact.

Japan's Dubai Sheema Classic winner Heart's Cry is expected to be at Ascot on July 29 for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, while Cesario, recovered from her post-American Oaks injury, has the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf as her late-season goal.

2006 European Group 1 stakes

April 30Longchamp (Fr)Prix Ganay1 5/16 miles, 4YO & Up
May 6Newmarket (GB)2000 Guineas Stakes1 mile, 3YO C&F
May 7Newmarket (GB)1000 Guineas Stakes1 mile, 3YO F
May 14Longchamp (Fr)Poule d'Essai des Poulains1 mile, 3YO C
May 14Longchamp (Fr)Poule d'Essai des Pouliches1 mile, 3YO F
May 14Capannelle (Ity)Pr Presidente della Repubblica1 1/4 miles, 4YO & Up, C&F
May 20Newbury (GB)Lockinge Stakes1 mile, 4YO & Up
May 21Longchamp (Fr)Prix d'Ispahan1 1/8 miles, 4YO & Up
May 21Longchamp (Fr)Prix Saint-Alary1 1/4 miles, 3YO F
May 21Capannelle (Ity)Derby Italiano1 1/2 miles, 3YO C&F
May 27Curragh (Ire)Irish 2000 Guineas1 mile, 3YO C&F
May 28Curragh (Ire)Irish 1000 Guineas1 mile, 3YO F
June 2Epsom (GB)English Oaks1 1/2 miles, 3YO F
June 2Epsom (GB)Coronation Cup1 1/2 miles, 4YO & Up
June 3Epsom (GB)Epsom Derby1 1/2 miles, 3YO C&F
June 4Chantilly (Fr)Prix du Jockey-Club1 5/16 miles, 3YO C&F
June 4Dusseldorf (Ger)Preis der Diana1 3/8 miles, 3YO F
June 11Chantilly (Fr)Prix de Diane1 5/16 miles, 3YO F
June 18San Siro (Ity)Oaks d'Italia1 3/8 miles, 3YO F
June 18San Siro (Ity)Gran Premio di Milano1 1/2 miles, 3YO & Up, C&F
June 20Royal Ascot (GB)St. James's Palace Stakes1 mile, 3YO C
June 20Royal Ascot (GB)Queen Anne Stakes1 mile, 4YO & Up
June 21Royal Ascot (GB)Prince of Wales's Stakes1 1/4 miles, 4YO & Up
June 22Royal Ascot (GB)Ascot Gold Cup2 1/2 miles, 4YO & Up
June 23Royal Ascot (GB)Coronation Stakes1 mile, 3YO F
June 24Royal Ascot (GB)Golden Jubilee Stakes6 furlongs, 3YO & Up
June 25Saint-Cloud (Fr)Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud1 1/2 miles, 4YO & Up, C&F
July 1Curragh (Ire)Pretty Polly Stakes1 1/4 miles, 3YO & Up, F&M
July 2Curragh (Ire)Irish Derby1 1/2 miles, 3YO C&F
July 8Sandown (GB)Eclipse Stakes1 1/4 miles, 3YO & Up
July 9Chantilly (Fr)Prix Jean Prat1 mile, 3YO C&F
July 9Hamburg (Ger)Deutsches Derby1 1/2 miles, 3YO C&F
July 12Newmarket (GB)Falmouth Stakes1 mile, 3YO & Up, F&M
July 14Newmarket (GB)July Cup6 furlongs, 3YO & Up
July 14Longchamp (Fr)Grand Prix de Paris1 1/2 miles, 3YO C&F
July 16Curragh (Ire)Irish Oaks1 1/2 miles, 3YO F
July 29Ascot (GB)King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes 1 1/2 miles, 3YO & Up
July 30Deauville (Fr)Prix d'Astarte1 mile, 3YO & Up, F&M
July 30Munich (Ger)Bayerisches Zuchtrennen1 1/4 miles, 3YO & Up
August 2Goodwood (GB)Sussex Stakes1 mile, 3YO & Up
August 5Goodwood (GB)Nassau Stakes1 1/4 miles, 3YO & Up, F&M
August 6Deauville (Fr)Prix Maurice de Gheest6 1/2 furlongs, 3YO & Up
August 13Deauville (Fr)Prix Jacques le Marois1 mile, 3YO & Up, C&F
August 13Curragh (Ire)Phoenix Stakes6 furlongs, 2YO C&F
August 13Cologne (Ger)Rheinland-Pokal1 1/2 miles, 3YO & Up, C&F
August 20Deauville (Fr)Prix Morny6 furlongs, 2YO C&F
August 22York (GB)Juddmonte International abt 1 5/16 miles, 3YO & Up
August 23York (GB)Yorkshire Oaks1 1/2 miles, 3YO & Up, F&M
August 24York (GB)Nunthorpe Stakes5 furlongs, 2YO & Up
August 27Curragh (Ire)Moyglare Stud Stakes7 furlongs, 2YO F
September 2Haydock (GB)Haydock Park Sprint Cup6 furlongs, 3YO & Up
September 3Longchamp (Fr)Prix du Moulin de Longchamp1 mile, 3YO & Up, C&F
September 3Baden-Baden (Ger)Grosser Preis von Baden1 1/2 miles, 3YO & Up, C&F
September 9York (GB)St. Leger Stakesabt 1 13/16 miles, 3YO C&F
September 9Leopardstown (Ire)Irish Champion Stakes1 1/4 miles, 3YO & Up
September 9Leopardstown (Ire)Matron Stakes1 mile, 3YO & Up, F&M
September 10Longchamp (Fr)Prix Vermeille1 1/2 miles, 3&4YO F
September 16Curragh (Ire)Irish St. Leger1 3/4 miles, 3YO & Up
September 17Curragh (Ire)National Stakes7 furlongs, 2YO C&F
September 23Ascot (GB)Queen Elizabeth II Stakes1 mile, 3YO & Up
September 23Ascot (GB)Fillies Mile1 mile, 2YO F
September 29Newmarket (GB)Middle Park Stakes6 furlongs, 2YO C
September 29Newmarket (GB)Cheveley Park Stakes6 furlongs, 2YO F
September 30Newmarket (GB)Sun Chariot Stakes1 mile, 3YO & Up, F&M
September 30Longchamp (Fr)Prix de la Foret7 furlongs, 3YO & Up, C&F
October 1Longchamp (Fr)Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe1 1/2 miles, 3YO & Up, C&F
October 1Longchamp (Fr)Prix de l'Opera1 1/4 miles, 3YO & Up, F&M
October 1Longchamp (Fr)Pr de l'Abbaye de Longchamp5 furlongs, 2YO & Up, C&F
October 1Longchamp (Fr)Prix Marcel Boussac1 mile, 2YO F
October 1Longchamp (Fr)Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere7 furlongs, 3YO C
October 1Longchamp (Fr)Prix du Cadran2 1/2 miles, 4YO & Up
October 14Newmarket (GB)Champion Stakes1 1/4 miles, 3YO & Up
October 14Newmarket (GB)Dewhurst Stakes7 furlongs, 2YO C&F
October 14San Siro (Ity)Premio Vittorio di Capua1 mile, 3YO & Up, C&F
October 15San Siro (Ity)Gran Premio del Jockey Club1 1/2 miles, 3YO & Up, C&F
October 15San Siro (Ity)Gran Criterium1 mile, 2YO C&F
October 21Newbury (GB)Racing Post Trophy1 mile, 2YO C&F
October 22Longchamp (Fr)Prix Royal-Oak1 15/16 miles, 3YO & Up, C&F
October 29Saint-Cloud (Fr)Criterium International1 mile, 2YO C&F
November 5Capannelle (Ity)Premio Roma1 1/4 miles, 3YO & Up, C&F
November 12Saint-Cloud (Fr)Criterium de Saint-Cloud1 1/4 miles, 2YO C&F