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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
York ready to welcome Royal Ascot
York welcomes racegoers to Royal Ascot
Tue 14 to Sat 18 June 2005
Live on BBC One, Five Live and BBC Sport website
History will be made on Tuesday when Royal Ascot at York gets under way.

Ascot's racing heritage stretches back nearly 300 years and the Royal meeting has become one of the most important fixtures in the sporting calendar.

The annual five-day event has always been held at Ascot but the Berkshire course is closed until 2006 for a 185m redevelopment.

So the world-famous Flat racing festival has been moved 220 miles north to York racecourse.

York has its own rich history and its racetrack is set on the Knavesmire, which once hosted public hangings, and is where infamous highwayman Dick Turpin met his end in 1739.

The course does not have as large a capacity as Ascot but is expecting about 260,000 racegoers to attend over the course of the five days.

As well as making the meeting more accessible to those living in the north of England and Scotland, it has been estimated that visiting racegoers will bring more than 50m into the local economy.

Extra trains are being laid on between King's Cross and York for those who do make the daily journey up from the south.

Crowds will peak on Ladies Day, which takes place on Thursday, when 58,000 people are expected.

That will be a huge increase on the 40,000 who usually attend on York's biggest race days.

Ascot's old grandstand will be replaced
Ascot: Closed in Sep 2004. Due to reopen May 2006
York: New round course constructed for longer races

It may be a different venue, but Royal Ascot at York will maintain a sense of tradition.

The Queen will take part in a royal procession each day, and top hat and tails are compulsory for men in the royal enclosure.

Despite its focus on glamour, the Royal meeting also features some of the most important races of the Flat season.

But the track at York has fundamental differences from the Ascot course, as horses run in a right-handed (clockwise) direction at Ascot but the opposite way at York.

One other Ascot institution missing from York will be champion jockey Frankie Dettori.

The popular Italian, who has been top jockey at the Royal meeting five times including last year, became synonymous with Ascot after riding all seven winners at a meeting at the track in 1996.

But racegoers will not be able to witness any of his famous flying dismounts at York because he picked up a ban for careless riding earlier this month that rules him out of the entire meeting.

Dettori could miss a high-profile winner on the opening day of the meeting with his stable Godolphin running French Derby winner Shamardal in Tuesday's feature race, the St James's Palace Stakes.

Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin team also boasts high hopes of landing Thursday's big race, the Ascot Gold Cup, with 2004 winner Papineau.

Young Australian jockey Kerrin McEvoy will pick up many of Dettori's rides, but Kieren Fallon is favourite to be leading rider at the meeting.

Fallon hit the headlines in 2004 over his arrest for allegations of race-fixing, which he strenuously denies.

As the police inquiry continued, six-times UK champion Fallon moved to Aidan O'Brien's powerful Ballydoyle stable in Ireland earlier this year.

Fallon's commitment to O'Brien means he misses the plum ride on the Ed Dunlop-trained favourite Ouija Board in the Prince of Wales's Stakes on Wednesday, with his Ballydoyle predecessor Jamie Spencer on board.

But Fallon will have the pick of O'Brien's contenders at York and will look to deny Dubawi on the opening day with Irish 2,000 Guineas runner-up Oratorio.

Report: York prepares to host Royal Ascot

Interview: Royal Ascot spokesman Nick Smith

Interview: Trainer Mark Johnston

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