2004 Eclipse Turf Female: Ouija Board

2004 Eclipse Turf Female: Ouija Board
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Ouija Board
Unaided by the occult, and with no hovering, all-seeing orb to guide the way, it was Great Britain's Ouija Board herself who foretold a near-certain future victory in the VO5 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) for all eyes to behold.

The harbinger: a feral late run in Longchamp's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Barriere (Fr-I) against the best males on the continent. From deep in the field Ouija Board closed with an explosive rush--a turn of foot seldom seen from a 3-year-old filly anywhere in the world.

Though she would finish the 1 1/2-mile test third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Bago, Ouija Board sent a cross-Atlantic tremor that left the rest of her divisional counterparts contemplating second-place in North America's biggest race of the year.

Her vast promise was evident before the Arc in back-to-back wins over the summer in the Vodafone Oaks (Eng-I) at Epsom and the Darley Irish Oaks (Ire-I) at the Curragh. She became just the 10th filly in history to complete the Epsom/Irish Oaks double, and the first sweep since Ramruma's in 1999. Ouija Board headed into 2005 with career totals of five wins in eight tries on her résumé--on the board in all eight--along with earnings of $1,671,768.

Trained by Ed Dunlop and owned by her breeder, Lord Derby, her victory on Breeders' Cup day was nearly flawless, thanks in no small part to a perfect ride from Irishman Kieren Fallon.

Pre-entered in two of the day's races, her defection from her preferred $2-million John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) against the boys was necessitated by a supplemental fee equal to 9% of that race's heftier purse. Though likely the second choice in that test behind Kitten's Joy, her connections opted to run for the Filly & Mare division prize at a smaller entry fee of $90,000 up front.

With Moscow Burning setting a pedestrian pace (:52.47) for the 1 3/8-mile affair, Ouija Board settled back in hand early in sixth, as Fallon was faced with a quick decision given Lone Star's short run to the far turn. When Ouija Board launched her three-wide rally at the final turn, only a fading Moscow Burning, a game Film Maker who held well for second, and a rallying Wonder Again (third) stood between her and the new statue she would draw away with.

Ouija Board was her owner's sole horse in training last season, and the first ever owned by Lord Derby in the American championships. From the first crop of Irish-bred stallion Cape Cross, a son of the Danzig stallion Green Desert, Ouija Board was produced from the British-bred Selection Board, also a Lord Derby homebred who died in 2002 at age 20, the year after foaling the Eclipse-award finalist.

Ouija Board takes her name from her granddam, Ouija, and the second-half of her dam's name, a suggestion by Lord Derby's wife, Cazzy, who Lord Derby still believes came up with the name on her own without the aid of a pedigree chart.

Lord Derby and conditioner Dunlop have mapped out a most challenging 4-year-old campaign for Ouija Board, who was jetted back to England shortly after her Breeders' Cup win. Her schedule calls for competition against an all European-male lineup as she begins preparing for another run at the Breeders' Cup, most likely against the males.

Only six horses in the event's 21-year history have won the same race twice, but to date none have won in two different divisions. And while the connections of Ouija Board were asking the inscrutable eye about her chances for one, or even two Eclipse Awards (she also was a finalist for 3-year-old filly), her performance on the grass in Europe should tell them all they need to know as she looks to make history again in 2005.

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