Ascot racing at Newmarket ?

STYLE, sophistication and prestige have long-been associated with the historic Royal Ascot race meet.Now the excitement associated with the lavish Berkshire meet, long-celebrated as the social event of the year, may soon move home to East Anglia.

STYLE, sophistication and prestige have long-been associated with the historic Royal Ascot race meet.

Now the excitement associated with the lavish Berkshire meet, long-celebrated as the social event of the year, may soon move home to East Anglia.

Newmarket Racecourse, regarded as the home of horseracing, has emerged as one of the favourites to temporarily house the four-day event in 2005.

Extensive £180 million redevelopment work planned for the Berkshire course may force the meet away from its traditional base, and could result in officials at Rowley Mile welcoming massive crowds in their Sunday best.


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With Newmarket's historic and long-running links to royalty, some feel the town would be ideally suited to host the prestigious event, ahead of its closest rival York.

King Charles II once romped with his mistress Nell Gwynne in a boudoir at Palace House – one of the monarch's many mansions – in the town centre.

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While rumour has it secret underground tunnels linked the King's country seat to illiterate actress Ms Gwynne's own home, just metres down the road.

Officials at Newmarket Racecourse would be more than happy to re-establish links with royalty, by inviting the Queen back to Suffolk to watch her favourite horses race in 2005.

"It would be a fantastic opportunity. It is a major event, and we would be delighted to hold it," said Lisa Hancock, managing director at Newmarket.

"But there is a huge amount of work that needs to be carried out by both ourselves and Ascot at this early stage.

"Officials have spoken to myself and a couple of other courses about the possibility of staging it elsewhere, but obviously their first choice would be for it to remain at Ascot, with the building programme adjusted around it."

If chosen, Newmarket would host the race meet in June, with special marquees and extra facilities added to the site to increase crowd capacity.

Up to 80,000 spectators daily flock to Ascot during the race meet, with most guests travelling to Berkshire on Ladies Day, to witness the unusual and bizarre collection of headwear.

Nick Smith, Ascot's head of public relations said: "It is highly likely the building work will be approaching its peak by the summer of 2005, and it may be that it serves the interests of our customers better to look for an alternative venue.

"Ascot is still the marginal favourite, but it is a possibility the 2005 meeting will be relocated. An interest has been expressed by Newmarket, and we feel it is a fantastic racecourse.

"We have no doubt it could accommodate a Royal Ascot in terms of track, facilities and space, but of course, Ascot cannot be replaced in its entirety anywhere else.

"And although the stands are not big enough at Newmarket, there is plenty of room at the Rowley Mile for temporary marquees."

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