The 2006 Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) is shaping up to be an exciting event. The 1 3/8-mile race is expected to pit the older, globe-trotting, European superstar Ouija Board against up-and-coming 3-year-old sensation Wait a While, who has won stakes on both dirt and turf this season.
Lord Derby's Ouija Board is returning to the Filly & Mare Turf starting gate for a third consecutive time, having won the 2004 edition before finishing second to Intercontinental in 2005 as the favorite. The 5-year-old daughter of Cape Cross
out of Selection Board, by Welsh Pageant, entered the 2005 race off an abbreviated season--two starts--after suffering a stress fracture at the base of the cannon bone of her foreleg during her first start last year. After more than three months on the sidelines, she returned to win the Princess Royal John Doyle Stakes (Eng-III) before coming to the United States.
This year, no such injuries have occurred and the turf-tested Ouija Board is in fine form, having won two English group I races, the Prince of Wales's and the Vodafone Nassau Stakes, from seven starts. Most recently, she finished a neck shy of Dylan Thomas when headed at the wire following a questionable ride in the Bailey's Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I).
Her win in the Prince of Wales's at Royal Ascot was most impressive as it came against the boys, most notably the late Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Electrocutionist and Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) winner David Junior. In that race, Ouija Board, ridden for the first time by Olivier Peslier, slipped clear of Electrocutionist to record a half-length win in the 1 1/4-mile race.
Ouija Board's only negative this season has been the lack of a regular jockey. She's been ridden by five different jockeys in her seven starts. Frankie Dettori, who was aboard the champion mare in her Vodafone Nassau Stakes win, is expected to regain the mount aboard the Ed Dunlop-trainee for the Filly & Mare Turf.
While Ouija Board figures to be the favorite, the Todd Pletcher-trained Wait a While should attract plenty of attention.
The sophomore daughter of Maria's Mon
out of Flirtatious, by A.P. Indy
, took a detour on her path to becoming a top grass filly with a pair of placings in two of the most important grade I races of the year for 3-year-old fillies, the Kentucky Oaks and the Ashland Stakes. When the Miss Grillo Stakes was rained off the turf last fall, Wait a While stayed in the race and cruised to an easy win. Another off-track win, in the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II), kept her on the path to the Oaks. She was again pointed toward a return to the turf, but the Sands Point (gr. IIIT) was moved to the main track.
Owned by Alan and Karen Cohen's Arindel Farm, Wait a While returned to the grass during the summer and recorded a pair of overpowering wins in the American Oaks (gr. IT) and the Lake Placid Stakes (gr. IIT). She was equally as impressive in beating older fillies and mares in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT).
Pletcher will also saddle Honey Ryder, who increased her stock in the division with a win over Film Maker in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) in her most recent start. Film Maker is also making her third appearance in the Filly & Mare Turf. Honey Ryder has second preference in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).
Owned by Glencrest Farm, the 5-year-old daughter of Lasting Approval out of Cuando Quiere, by Affirmed, recorded three straight stakes wins earlier this season before tasting defeat at the hands of Gorella and Film Maker in the Beverly D. (gr. IT).
The addition of Gorella to the Filly & Mare Turf starting gate could add even more excitement to the race if her connections choose to keep her against her own gender instead of again challenging the boys in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), where she finished third last year. Gorella has first preference in the Mile, but is also pre-entered in the Filly & Mare Turf.