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ouija-board

Ouija Board (horse)

Ouija Board (born 2001) is a Thoroughbred mare racehorse (named after the ouija board spiritualism device) owned by Edward Stanley, 19th Earl of Derby and trained by Ed Dunlop. In a career spanning four seasons, she won 10 of her 22 races, 7 of them Group 1s, including the Epsom Oaks in 2004 and the Hong Kong Vase in 2005. In 2004, she won the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and came 2nd to Intercontinental the following year in the same race. In 2006, the Dunlop team took her back to the USA where she regained her crown in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, proving that she is one of the best racehorse mares in history. She has amassed over £3 million in prize money. Also, she is only the second horse ever to win Breeders' Cup races in non-consecutive years, along with Da Hoss, who won the Breeders' Cup Mile in 1996 and 1998.

She is Lord Derby's only horse currently in training, the silks being a very simple black, sporting a white cap, and a single white button below the collar. She has had seven different jockeys ride her, with Olivier Peslier, Kieren Fallon, Frankie Dettori and Jamie Spencer all victorious.

Racing career

Her debut came at Newmarket Racecourse over 7 furlongs, when finishing third, a length behind the winner. She was turned out just 18 days later at Great Yarmouth Racecourse running over the same distance, although she was victorious this time. Just 11 days later, she had her third race of the season, again at Newmarket, over a furlong extra in a Listed event, although again she finished third. It was her final start of the 2003 season.

Her first outing in 2004 came at Newmarket in the Pretty Polly Stakes over 10 furlongs, a traditional trial for the Epsom Oaks. She was victorious by an incredible six lengths, but connections opted to go straight to Epsom, rather than run in any other traditional trials such as the Musidora Stakes at York. For her 2004 performance, Ouija Board was voted the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Female Turf Horse and named European Horse of the Year.

The Oaks

She started the Epsom Oaks at 7/2 second favourite behind the Aidan O'Brien-trained All Too Beautiful, as well as taking on the Godolphin duo of Punctillious and Sundrop, but her main rivals had absolutely no answer to Ouija Board's devastating turn of foot, and she ran on to win by seven lengths. It was just the start of an amazing Oaks-Derby double for jockey Kieren Fallon, who was proclaimed the 'King of Epsom' afterwards. Her next target was the Irish Oaks, in which two of her Epsom victims were reopposing - Punctillious and All Too Beautiful, but again neither could seriously challenge, and Ouija Board won by a length from the former.

Connections had eyed up a crack at Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe for Ouija Board, attempting to be the first female to win the race since Urban Sea in 1993. To make matters harder, she had a new jockey on-board in Johnny Murtagh. She was boxed-in throughout the race, and only got out when it was too late, finishing like a train, but still one-and-a-half-lengths behind the winner Bago.

Despite the loss, she remained on target for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Lone Star Park at the end of October 2004, reunited with jockey Kieren Fallon. She produced her customary turn of foot to win by one-a-half-lengths.

2005

Several problems at the start of the 2005 season meant her seasonal reappearance came as late as June at Royal Ascot in the Prince of Wales's Stakes. Jamie Spencer was on-board since Fallon was riding for Ballydoyle and Dettori had a ban which saw him miss the whole of the meeting. Unfortunately Ouija Board lost a shoe round the final bend, and tailed off to finish 7th, thirty lengths behind the winner Azamour.

However, she bounced back at Newmarket three months later on her next start, in the Group 3 Princess Royal Stakes, winning comfortably under new jockey Frankie Dettori. Her end of season aim was once again the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, although she was partnered by another new jockey, US Hall of Fame jockey and Jerry Bailey. The race was run over a furlong less than the previous year due to the race being run at Belmont Park. The shorter distance proved her undoing, and she failed by just one length whilst finishing 2nd.

Her relatively short season meant she was still fresh, and connections decided to send her to Japan for a crack at the Japan Cup, in which she ran admirably, finishing 5th to Alkaased, but only two lengths behind. She was sent to Hong Kong just 2 weeks later for a tilt at the Hong Kong Vase, and although never travelling throughout the race under regular rider Kieren Fallon, produced an incredible turn of foot, and scythed through the pack to win by two-and-a-half-lengths, but pulling away with every stride.

2006

It was decided she would stay in training for one final season, with the Dubai Sheema Classic her first target. Kieren Fallon was again on-board, and she ran very flat whilst finishing 4th, although Fallon reported that 'she was not herself,' and that the firework display just minutes beforehand unsettled her badly. Connections, although never publicly admitted, felt Fallon had ridden her poorly and signalled the end of the jockey's successful partnership with her.

She was next shipped to Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong for April's Queen Elizabeth II Cup where she was reunited with Frankie Dettori for the HK$14 million (US$1.8 million) Group One event. Although running over 10 furlongs, 2 furlongs shorter than her preferred distance, she finished 3rd to winner Irridescence. However, she lost absolutely nothing in defeat, absolutely flying in the final furlong, only losing by two necks. Again, although never admitted, connections felt Dettori holding her up in the rear for so long cost her the race.

A return visit to the scene of arguably her greatest triumph was next, as she was sent to Epsom for a crack at the Coronation Cup, although it would not be an easy task, with Shirocco, the apple of André Fabre's eye opposing her, and went off favourite, and justified his favouritism, but Ouija Board again lost nothing in defeat, putting in a marvellous run. Ed Dunlop said after the race that a trip to Royal Ascot was not completely out of the question, with either the Prince of Wales's Stakes over 10 furlongs or Hardwicke Stakes over her preferred 12 furlong distance.

She was confirmed as a runner in the Prince of Wales's Stakes, in a very competitive race. Dubai World Cup winner Electrocutionist, Champion Stakes and Dubai Duty Free Stakes winner David Junior, Brigadier Gerard Stakes winner Notnowcato, Breeders' Cup Turf runner-up Ace and Manduro all lining up against her. It was a tactical battle, not helped with having a brand new jockey in Olivier Peslier. However, he rode a spectacular race, and went on to win by half-a-length.

She was entered for the Coral Eclipse just 17 days later, with another new jockey in Christophe Soumillon on-board. However, she was bumped around in midfield and denied a run, finishing 5th, with David Junior winning. Soumillon was berated by critics for his ride, and again criticised by connections, although again this was not confirmed.

Soumillon returned to England 21 days later for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes riding Hurricane Run, which he won in a pulsating race, although his post-race celebrations came under huge criticism, and was rumoured that these antics had been aimed at connections of Ouija Board.

Ouija Board had been considered for the "King George", but connections felt she had not recovered from her cuts and bruises from the Eclipse and was left out, although she was confirmed a runner in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood Racecourse a week later.

Ouija's finest moment

Dettori was once again on-board, and lined up in a very competitive field, including Hong Kong Cup winner Alexander Goldrun, Coronation Stakes winner Nannina, Echelon and a half-sister to Hawk Wing, Race For The Stars. It was a titanic clash, with Ouija Board and Alexander Goldrun eye-to-eye for a quarter-of-a-mile. Ouija Board was declared the winner after a photo-finish, and the reception she received afterwards was incredible.

Goodwood has been the scene of many great receptions, notably with Double Trigger winning the Goodwood Cup in 1995, and more recently, Persian Punch in 2003. However, the applause for Ouija Board surpassed even these greats. It was considered her most hard battled victories.

2006 post-Goodwood

She lined up next for the Irish Champion Stakes in a rematch with Alexander Goldrun from Goodwood, and the additional threat of Dylan Thomas, the Budweiser Irish Derby winner, coming from the formidable trio of Magnier, Aidan O'Brien and Fallon. Partnered by Jamie Spencer once more due to Dettori riding in the St. Leger Stakes on the same day and Fallon engaged in the same race, Spencer took Ouija Board past 'Dylan' with just over a furlong to go, but 'Dylan' showed great spirit and speed to get back up to the great mare, and he prevailed by a neck. Connections had mixed emotions, as she had run a fantastic race and was beaten by a brilliant colt, but she had failed to add a 7th Group 1 to her CV.

The Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs had always been her main seasonal target, and with regular partner Dettori aboard, she was sent off a very warm favourite, and despite being boxed in with three furlongs to go, she sprinted clear of the field, and ended up being probably the best performance of the day.

A sad end

Just a day before she was due to run in her last ever race, the Hong Kong Vase, a slight injury was discovered, resulting in immediate retirement. This was very sad news as if placing second or higher in the race Ouija Board would have become the highest earning British Race horse in History and this was a distinct possibility as the Racing Post forecast her to be a clear favourite at 6/4.

However, compensation was won in the form of her being awarded the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Female Turf Horse in 2006, to add to her previous win of the same award in 2004.

Pedigree

References

Ouija Board gave birth to a bay colt by Kingmambo on saturday February 9th 2008, she returned from Germany in foal to top German stallion Monsun in April 2008.

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