November 2, 2009

Remembering ... Ouija Board

Up until the meteoric rise of this year’s European champion, Sea the Stars, the greatest horse sired by Cape Cross was the globetrotting mare, Ouija Board. She was a true world champion, not concerned with the time zone she was in or the competition she would face. Ouija Board simply exuded class. She was an English home bred, owned by Lord Derby, who had only one horse in training for part of her career. She handsomely carried his simple black silks, plain white cap, and a single white button below the collar, atop her elegant bay frame. Lightly raced as a two-year-old, she made only three starts with one win at 7 furlongs. At three, she wasted little time in displaying her superiority to Europe’s best 3-year-old fillies. Stretching out to distances she yearned for, Ouija Board won the prestigious English Oaks by a whopping 7 lengths in only her second run of the year. She was now a star and she would give her fans exactly what they wanted with an effortless score in the Irish Oaks, becoming only the tenth filly to win the Oaks double.

After those outstanding performances in the two Oaks, her trainer, Ed Dunlop, gave her a rest before running the lightly raced 3-year-old filly in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe where she would attempt to become the first female to win the race since Urban Sea (Sea the Stars dam) in 1993. Despite her inexperience and running against the males for the first time, she was the best horse in the race, but she was hopefully boxed in much of the race, and did not find room to run until it was too late, finishing furiously to get within 1 ½ lengths of the winner Bago. From there she went to Texas and less than four weeks after her rousing run in Paris, Ouija Board showed the world what she could do with clear sailing as she overwhelmed her distaff counterparts in the 2004 edition of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Lone Star Park. In only five races at three, she easily won four times including the Breeders’ Cup in the U.S., the Oaks of England, the Oaks of Ireland, with an unlucky loss in France’s biggest race.

At four and five, Ouija Board would jump from nation to nation always willing to take on the best. Displaying her class, she, in one stretch, would run against the boys in seven consecutive races. Other than her only poor performance to begin her 4-year-old season. She was the epitome of consistency. Often running in a different country each race. She would add a win and a 2nd to her Breeders’ Cup tally, easily win the rich Hong Kong vase of 2005, and give the males a scare in two consecutive Japan Cups. She would defeat the top males in Europe and defeat her top female rival, Alexander Goldrun in consecutive races. Overall, Ouija Board won two Eclipse Awards in America, as well as, two European Horse of the Year titles.

Just a day before she was due to run in her last ever race, the Hong Kong Vase, a slight injury was discovered, sending her to retirement one day early. In 22 races, Ouija Board won 10 times amassing $5,787,390 in earnings. If she had been able to finish 1st or 2nd in the Hong Kong Vase, Ouija Board would have earned the distinction as the all time richest British race horse. 10 wins in 22 races might not jump out at you as the record of an all-time superstar, but consider this: 17 of her final 18 races were Group 1 affairs, 11 of those Group 1 races were against the males, and these races were contested in seven different countries. Talk about not ducking the competition. Can you imagine connections of an American horse accepting this type of schedule?

What I remember best of Ouija Board’s marvelous career was her three races in the States. Each time she traveled to America, she was here to take on the best in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. On three different courses and three different course conditions, she was a sight to behold. She was both explosive and athletic in her easy triumphs of 2004 & 2006 and she was game and classy in her 2005 2nd place finish. The Filly & Mare Turf may not be the most anticipated of the BC races and I often favor the home horses, but I was enthralled each year to see Ouija Board run. I found it impossible not to root for and I had great respect for the English mare. I am not sure why she ran against the females each time, as she ran against the boys so many times internationally, but with all due respect to horses like High Chaparral and English Channel, I consider her the finest horse to run on American turf in this decade. I am sure that she could have beaten the males, just as she did the females. No horse has ever won three consecutive BC races, but she was the one to come the closest. In 2005, she would not overcome, the loose-on-an-easy-lead mare, Intercontinental, but it almost did not matter. I knew who was the best horse in that race, the best female turf runner of the era, and the best turf horse who would compete in any BC turf race over the three year stretch…it was Ouija Board.

Ouija Board is now a broodmare in England at the same farm where she began her life. Her backers are hoping that she can reproduce something close to her greatness. Her first foal is Voodoo Prince, a colt by Kingmambo who was born February 9, 2008. Fans of Ouija Board will be pleased to know that he is owned by Lord Derby and will be trained by Ed Dunlop. She also has a weanling colt by Monsun and is in foal with a filly by champion Galileo. The world eagerly awaits her offspring to come out running, and who knows, maybe one can someday match her excellence. A champion the world over, Ouija Board was that rare horse who was able to trek throughout the world, year after year, and thrill her throngs of devoted fans with consistently superlative performances. Win or lose, you could be sure to see this wonderful mare always effort her best to get to the wire first. In today’s reality of a shrinking globe, we can only hope to see more horses like Ouija Board, who brought the entire world of racing closer together with her wonderful travels. I remember you Ouija Board.


Heather said...

aaaawwww..i loved Ouiga Board :) Gotta love a beautiful, globe-trotting girl with LOTS of class :) Can't wait to see what she produces in the future...should be pretty impressive!

LDP said...

I only saw her race in the 06 BC and was amazed at the class and brilliance she showed. I would second your claim that she is the best turf horse to race on American soil. A great mare.

Brian Zipse said...

Thank you LDP...although I do qualify that Ouija Board is the best turf horse to run in the U.S. in this decade.

Luvbarbaro said...

I did see her BC races, she was absolutely amazing. She was beautiful and also she was such a great athlete. I hope some of her foals have the greatness she displayed.

Anonymous said...

Ed Dunlop is really impressed with her colt Voodoo Prince, saying he's the best of all of his two year olds.

Any word on her version of Alydar- Film Maker I think- she was bred at the same time and even pastured with Ouija. Cute to see their foals renew the rivalry.