Racing: Omens good for Ouija Board comeback

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The Independent Online

It was a crucial workout for the Ed Dunlop-trained filly, who had been struck down by injury on her seasonal debut in the Prince of Wales's Stakes three months ago. And she came through it in fine style under regular rider Chris Hinson, pulling five lengths clear of her companion on the strip next to the eastbound Cambridge Road. She will take her place in the field for Saturday's Princess Royal Stakes at her local track and will be reunited with Kieren Fallon, whose record on her is four for four.

The 12-furlong Group Three contest will be Ouija Board's first below Group One level since she took the Pretty Polly Stakes on the Rowley Mile in May last year. The race conditions favour her hugely - she is rated a stone and more better than her rivals, but meets them at level weights because of her lack of success this term - and a bold showing would book her ticket across the Atlantic for another tilt at the Filly And Mare Turf. "All being well before Saturday," said Dunlop, "she is an intended runner. She worked well, she looks well and we are happy with her condition."

Ouija Board, owned and bred by Lord Derby, captured many hearts with her three-year-old exploits, but the gamble of keeping her in training seemed lost when she returned footsore from her unplaced run at York and then suffered a stress fracture to her near-foreleg. "It was very brave of the owner not to take her home," added Dunlop, "and from my point of view, and the public's, a great thing, because we love these older horses. Sadly, though, it has been one problem after another this year, and it is day to day with her."

An hour after Ouija Board stretched her legs, one of her rivals on Saturday completed her own preparation. Polar Jem's spin under her trainer George Margarson was much less heralded but her participation on Saturday is as important to her connections as the Classic winner's is to hers.

Ouija Board may be slumming it slightly at Group Three level, but for the former handicapper Polar Jem, home-bred by her owner Alan Hollis, it is a summit. She, too, has continued her athletic career rather than being directed towards motherhood, and added a second Listed contest to her CV in July. The Princess Royal Stakes is another step up the ladder for the progressive five-year-old.

"Perhaps we didn't expect to meet an Oaks winner in it," said Margarson, "but even a place would be terrific and although Ouija Board looks nailed on, we've prospects of that. Ours is at the top of her game, better than she's ever been."

Front-running Polar Jem disappointed last time out when only fifth behind Imperial Stride, Mamool, The Whistling Teal and Bandari in a hot September Stakes on Newmarket's July Course 19 days ago, but Margarson believes his charge can bounce back against her own sex. "The winner is exceptional, the second is no mug and the third ran a blinder in the Irish St Leger," he said.

"You never know if a filly will train on, but she was a late developer, didn't run at two, so she hasn't been murdered. She has few problems, mentally or physically, and we keep her sweet and happy. I ride her myself and she'll walk across to the gallops and stand and wait for the others like an old hack."

Another celebrity distaffer, Chic, is likely to miss a clash with the élite boys like Dubawi, Rakti and Starcraft in Saturday's feature, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, unless the ground at Newmarket eases. The five-year-old mare, trained by Sir Michael Stoute for Cheveley Park Stud, also holds a top-level engagement in the Sun Chariot Stakes a week later.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Instructor

(Pontefract 4.00)

NB: Motorway

(Perth 2.50)