Another repeat for Lord Derby’s globe-trotting mare Ouija Board—first in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), and because of that performance, a second title as champion grass mare.
It takes only one race to win an Eclipse Award, and Ouija Board has done it for a second time, much as Miesque did in 1987 and 1988 in the Mile (gr. IT).
There is one difference, however, as Ouija Board’s Eclipse statues were not earned in consecutive years. She previously won the VO5 Filly & Mare Turf and was crowned champion turf filly or mare in 2004 as a 3-year-old. She could have made it three straight, but in the 2005 Filly & Mare Turf, the homebred daughter of Cape Cross finished second to Intercontinental, who was subsequently named champion.
There were those who had doubts about Ouija Board as the 2006 Breeders’ Cup World Championships approached because of her ambitious campaign. She made just five starts at both 3 and 4—and last year two of those outings came post-Breeders’ Cup—but had run seven times in 2006 prior to the 11-furlong Filly & Mare Turf. Those concerns were alleviated when Ouija Board kicked on under Frankie Dettori and coasted home an easy 2¼-length winner on racing’s biggest international stage.
The victory marked the seventh grade/group I score for Ouija Board, who won the Filly & Mare Turf in 2004 at Lone Star Park when the race carried a $1-million purse. This year, the race carried a $2-million purse.
Ouija Board began her 2006 campaign just 14 weeks after ending her 2005 season with a victory in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase (HK-I). She was again away from home, taking up a position in the starting gate for the March 25 Nakheel Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) at Nad al Sheba. She finished fourth in the 11/2-mile race, beaten nine lengths in her worst performance of the year.
Sent back to Hong Kong for the April 23 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (HK-I), Ouija Board broke slowly and was farther back than she prefers in the 10-furlong race. Still, Dettori got her out with just over a quarter-mile to run and she came flying, beaten a head and a short head, respectively, by Irridescence and Carlisle Bay.
For trainer Ed Dunlop, Ouija Board made her next four starts in group I races in England, first in the June 2 Vodafone Coronation Cup over 12 furlongs, in which she made the lead at the quarter pole but could not hold off Shirocco. Three weeks later at the Royal Ascot meeting, in the first of four consecutive 11/4-mile races, Olivier Peslier was aboard the daughter of the Welsh Pageant mare Selection Board as she rallied late to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes over Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Electrocutionist.
Two weeks later, in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes, Christophe Soumillon had Ouija Board tracking as usual, but the pair had trouble finding running room late and finished fifth. Not to worry, though, as Ouija Board rebounded yet again, taking the Vodafone Nassau Stakes under Dettori in her only start of the year solely against members of her own sex.
As a final prep for the Breeders’ Cup, Ouija Board ventured to Ireland, where she and Jamie Spencer made the lead in the Baileys Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) with a furlong to run and were beaten a neck by Dylan Thomas.
As she did in 2005, Ouija Board ended her year by traveling to Hong Kong and Japan. She ran third in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) in the final start of her glorious career. Ouija Board retired with 10 wins, three seconds, and five thirds from 22 starts and earnings of $6,312,552.
(Article appears in the January 27, 2007 issue of The Blood-Horse)