By Tracy Gantz
Ouija Board, whose worldwide popularity continues to grow every time she sets foot on a racecourse, drew post position No. 2 Thursday for the HK$14 million Hong Kong Vase in what will be the final start of her career. The well-traveled mare is scheduled to attempt her second victory in the 2,400-meter Vase at Sha Tin Racecourse Dec. 10. Ouija Board also won the race last year.The Vase is one of four group I races that comprise the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races. The events, which also include the HK$20 million Hong Kong Cup, HK$16 million Hong Kong Mile, and HK$12 million Hong Kong Sprint, drew a total of 50 runners. The United States will have only one representative, Rebel Rebel in the Mile, after trainer Peter Miller decided not to enter Fast Parade in the Sprint because the horse wasn't doing well after shipping to Hong Kong. A third U.S.-based horse, Woodbine Mile (Can-I) winner Becrux, did not travel to Hong Kong for the Mile after developing a quarter crack.Rebel Rebel is slated to start from post position 3. Andrew Cohen, a member of the IEAH Stable partnership for which Rebel Rebel races, participated in the elaborate barrier draw procedure put together by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the races' sponsor, Cathay Pacific airlines. Each horse's name was selected as a boarding pass. The horse's representative then chose a bottle of red wine with a card on it. By the time Rebel Rebel's name was drawn, Cohen had four choices left -- post positions 3, 5, 7, 11."I'm happy with the post position," Cohen said, "and very glad it didn't turn out to be 13 or 14. I think they would have broken this bottle over my head if I had."Rebel Rebel's trainer, Richard Dutrow, and several of the horse's owners were due in Hong Kong later on Thursday. Cohen arrived a day earlier, in part because of the opportunity to visit the country."I've never been this far from home," said Cohen, a specialist on the American Stock Exchange, who lives in Wellington, Fla.Rebel Rebel, a 4-year-old son of Revoque -- French Quarter, by Ile de Bourbon, was one of several international runners to stretch his legs Thursday morning at Sha Tin. However, it was Ouija Board, owned by Lord Derby, who drew the most attention. With jockey Frankie Dettori in the irons, she had a serious bit of exercise, a move that pleased both Dettori and her trainer, Ed Dunlop."She felt great, though this was quite sad," Dettori said. "This was my last track work with her. I gave her a big hug. She's just a fabulous mare to be around."Dunlop said that Ouija Board traveled easily from Japan to Hong Kong, a four-hour flight. Ouija Board, who won the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), next started in the Nov. 26 Japan Cup (Jpn-I), where she finished third behind Deep Impact and Dream Passport."Fingers crossed, we'll have no problems coming to the race," Dunlop said at Sha Tin. "She's slightly heavier this year than last year, but she has carried her weight consistently."Ouija Board will face nine runners in the Vase. One of her main competitors, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor's Scorpion, drew post position 5. Scorpion most recently finished fifth to Red Rocks in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).In the Mile, Rebel Rebel is up against 13, including local favorite Bullish Luck, Hong Kong's champion miler last season. Bullish Luck, a 7-year-old gelding by Royal Academy -- Wild Vintage, by Alysheba, bred in the U. S., drew post position 7.Takeover Target, the leader in the Global Sprint Challenge, could earn a US$1 million bonus if he wins the Hong Kong Sprint. He drew post position 12, prompting his owner-trainer, former taxi driver Joe Janiak, to quip, "We can only blame ourselves for the barrier draw." Natural Blitz, the 2005 Sprint winner, drew post 1.The richest race, the 2000-meter Hong Kong Cup, will have a field of 12, including Pride of France and Hong Kong-based Vengeance of Rain. Winner of the Champion Stakes (Eng-I), Pride finished second to Vengeance of Rain in last year's Cup. The 6-year-old mare is to begin from post position 9, while Vengeance of Rain, a 6-year-old gelding, drew post 2.Here are the fields, in post-position order, for the four Hong Kong International races:Vase (10 horses): Kastoria, Ouija Board, Shamdala, Admire Main, Scorpion, Song of Wind, Egerton, Saturn, Maraahel, and Collier Hill.Sprint (14 horses): Natural Blitz, Silent Witness, Benbaun, Desert Lord, Absolute Champion, Scintillation, Meisho Bowler, Sunny Sing, Able Prince, Billet Express, She is Tosho, Takeover Target, Down Town, and Red Oog.Mile (14 horses): Sir Ernesto, Joyful Winner, Rebel Rebel, The Duke, Armada, Floral Pegasus, Bullish Luck, Bowman's Crossing, Dave's Best, Russian Pearl, Mustameet, Ramonti, Linngari, and Dance in the Mood.Cup (12 horses): High Intelligent, Vengeance of Rain, Musical Way, Admire Moon, Satwa Queen, Hello Pretty, Growl, Viva Pataca, Pride, Alexander Goldrun, Dia de La Novia, and Art Trader.