Racing week: Royal Ascot to return home

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  • Against all odds, Ascot has been true to its word and the royal meeting will be back home next June. It has taken just one year to finish the £200 million project to create “the best race course in the world” which will be officially opened on the first day of Royal Ascot next year.

    Architect Rod Sheard and a force of 600 workers have been working solidly for the 375 days since Ascot closed and were, at one stage, five weeks behind schedule. The towering new stand, six storeys high and 400 metres long is evidence that the work has happened.

    The track was the only remaining doubt, but top jockey Jimmy Fortune returned satisfied from a test run. According to Fortune the bend, which has always been the main problem of Ascot’s track, has been nicely cambered and feels solid.

    If Sheard’s previous projects are anything to go by, the Ascot redevelopment is sure to impress race-goers. His past commissions include the Millennium Stadium, Wembley and the Sydney Olympic Stadium.

    Compared with the old Ascot, visitors will be able to move much more freely around the stands and feel much closer to the horses. A remarkable array of catering facilities, including a panoramic restaurant for 300 are also included in the plans. Direct escalators will run from all floors to paddock levels and horses will move from the paddock onto the course through a tunnel in the centre of the stand.

    Starcraft to run in $4 million classic

    Top US dirt horse Starcraft is set to run in the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont Park. The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner is entered for both the Classic and the Mile on October 29. Starcraft was a champion in Australia before transferring to Newmarket.

    Optimistic news for Best Mate

    Henrietta Knight is increasingly optimistic that the burst blood vessel episode which destroyed Best Mate’s attempt for a fourth consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup was a one-off. There has been no sign of a recurrence in the build-up to his comeback in 19 days’ time at Exeter convincing Knight that there is no reason why Best Mate should not return to contest the Gold Cup once again.

    Stud cashes in on Bahamian Bounty

    The National Stud is making the most of its newest treasure, Bahamian Bounty, by making available 40 shares in the stallion for £30,000 each, valuing him at £3 million. The stud will retain a 60% stake and has also decided to increase Bahamian Bounty’s stud fee from £6,000 to £10,000. The stud is also marketing 10 shares in its newest recruit, Bahamian Bounty’s son, Pastoral Pursuit at £20,000 each.

    Rain ruins Rakiti’s chances

    Rakiti may have run his last race in Britain and possibly the last race of his career after the rain that poured on Newmarket through Wednesday and Thursday effectively ended the horse’s participation in Saturday’s Champion Stakes. The six-year-old is one of 15 declared runners for the Emirates Airline-sponsored showpiece, but chances of him attempting to land the Newmarket prize he won in 2003 appeared slim on Thursday, after just over 12mm of rain.

    Kinane suffers set back

    Injured jockey Chris Kinane’s move to a rehabilitation hospital has been delayed after he underwent his 16th major operation since suffering horrific head injuries when kicked by a horse in the paddock at Wolverhampton six months ago. Kinane, who is the former assistant to Alvechurch trainer Ian Williams, was recently nominated in the ‘Pride of Racing’ initiative. Doctors hope this operation will be the last brain operation Kinane has to endure. He will remain in the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Birmingham while doctors wait for his condition to stabilise sufficiently for him to be moved.

    Carter warned off

    The Jockey Club has warned off former jockey Gary Carter for a period of five years and fined him £2,000 as part of its clampdown on race-fixing and other elements of the gambling industry. This case is the first to result from the Jockey Club’s new powers, obtained from the High Court, to examine private mobile phones and computer records of unlicensed individuals.

    Lambourn gallops saved

    The public gallops around Lambourne in Berkshire — the traditional home of National Hunt trainers — are to be bought and run by the Jockey Club. Owned by the Nugent family since the 1930s, the Mandown gallops are regularly used by 19 training yards. The Jockey Club will take over the 500 acres of grass and all-weather gallops and schooling grounds on 1 December.

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