Racing: Final fling for Ouija before motherhood
Saturday 09 December 2006
If Ouija Board was the potentate of some banana republic she would by now have virtually disappeared behind a wall of medals and ribbon pinned to her uniform.
The great mare won three Racehorse Owners' Association awards on Thursday night, gongs to go with the many others clanking on her proud uniform. Ouija Board has won 10 races, over £3.5m in prize money and racing's heart, but the only figure that really counts now is one. That is the number of races left in a shimmering career which comes to a close here in the Hong Kong Vase tomorrow.
The balloon of this Phileas Fogg of racing landed at Sha Tin after efforts in Japan and Louisville and now the voyage is around 150 seconds from being over. It is a thought which has aroused a melancholic tendency in some this week, including Ed Dunlop, the mare's trainer.
Dunlop accepts he will never get a horse of Ouija Board's quality again, but he also recognises he will get more decent animals into his yard because of her billboard efforts.
Lord Derby, the mare's owner, is perhaps in the loneliest club in the world for those who think Ouija Board should be retired. He appeared a most relaxed and jovial figure yesterday as unseasonably high temperatures arrived here. It is the time of the year when lords are meant to be a leaping and naturally the 19th earl hopes he will be doing so again tomorrow.
Yet it is thought of Ouija Board returning home safe which has begun to preoccupy his thoughts. She has done too much to be lost on the field of battle and she also has much to do, principally in the quest of establishing a dynasty of her own.
"Everyone's been trying to change my mind for me about it but I'm in no doubt whatsoever that this is the right time to stop," Lord Derby said yesterday. "What more can she prove? In any case, each race is becoming more and more of a worry. The risk of anything happening to her in a race is beginning to cross over with the pleasure derived, so I know in my heart of hearts that this is the right moment. I could never live with myself if anything happened to her."
Among the many achievements of Ouija Board, her record at the Breeders' Cup series stands out. She has won the Filly & Mare Turf strand of the championships twice and finished second once, a race record which makes her statistically the most successful horse in the history of America's racing carnival.
She could not have done that without being very good, but what has distinguished Ouija Board in her four seasons on the racetrack has been an unyielding attitude and consistent endeavour.
These are traits which connections hope will be replicated in her offspring, starting with the union between the five-year-old and Kingmambo next year.
It is the thought of this second career which now sustains Lord Derby. "She's literally been a life-changing horse," he said, but added: "This is only the end of part one. Now we move on to part two. We now hope she's going to be a great foundation mare and I'm so looking forward to her children appearing."
* Today's jumps fixture at Lingfield has been abandoned (track waterlogged).
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