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Racing: Ouija Board embellishes noble succession

A rare successful racing system has emerged this season, its origins in the class system itself. The Earl of Derby won the Oaks here yesterday with Ouija Board, the only horse he has in training, to continue an aristocratic revival.

A rare successful racing system has emerged this season, its origins in the class system itself. The Earl of Derby won the Oaks here yesterday with Ouija Board, the only horse he has in training, to continue an aristocratic revival.

The victory for Edward Richard William Stanley, or plain Teddy to his friends, comes on the back of success for the Duke of Roxburghe in the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas with Attraction, and the Irish 2,000 Guineas win of Bachelor Duke for the Duke of Devonshire.

Running concurrent was the Derby family's great racing tradition. It was the 12th who earned the right to name the premier Classic when he won the toss of a coin with Sir Charles Bunbury. When he stayed in Epsom it was at an address called The Oaks.

The 19th Earl knew there was further coincidence on his side as Ouija Board went into the race on the back of an emphatic success in Newmarket's Pretty Polly Stakes. It was 100 years to the day yesterday since Pretty Polly herself won the Oaks and she too faced six opponents. It all seemed so obvious in hindsight.

It was ultimately a most uncompetitive Oaks. Kisses For Me, one of three runners from Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle yard, only just managed to carry out her pacemaking role as Sundrop, for Godolphin, pulled destructively at her side.

It was nevertheless only a steady rhythm before Punctilious and Frankie Dettori surged through to ensure a more generous pace. For a number of strides, Ouija Board was off the bridle but Kieren Fallon quickly made the mechanical adjustments.

All Too Beautiful, the Ballydoyle No 1 and surprise favourite, made her bid three furlongs out, but she was swiftly countered by Ouija Board. Two out the contest suddenly stopped. As the towels flew in, Ouija Board went further and further clear until seven lengths were between her and the toiling All Too Beautiful. Punctilious was another three and a half lengths back in third.

"The main thing was to get her switched off in the early stages, which she did," Fallon reported. "She never gave me any reason to doubt she'd stay, and travelled well and quickened nicely. If you can switch them off in the first half of a race it usually works. She's as good a middle-distance filly as I've ridden and if she keeps improving she's going to be hard to beat."

There was victory for another scion in the shape of trainer Ed Dunlop, son of John, one of the most successful preparers of horses in modern British racing history. Dunlop jnr, at 35, had won a French 1,000 Guineas (Ta Rib) and Irish Oaks (Lailani), but this was his first British Classic. "She won like a champion," he said. "I've watched my father win Derbys and Oaks here, but to do it myself is great."

Ouija Board will run next in the Irish Oaks, for which she will have to be supplemented, while Warrsan, the winner of the day's other Group One race, the Coronation Cup, will be held in reserve for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Warrsan's trainer, Clive Brittain, was invoking the names of all his notable horses - Pebbles, User Friendly, Jupiter Island, Terimon and Mystiko - as the six-year-old completed back-to-back wins in the race. "We've watched the horse go through character changes over the years," Brittain said. "He used to be difficult, but 100cwt of Polos has sorted that out."

There was some bitterness to go with the sweets, however, as Philip Robinson, Warrsan's pilot 12 months ago, was jocked off in favour of Darryll Holland. "Saeed Manana [the owner] thought a change of jockey would do the horse good," Brittain added. "There was a difference of opinion, because I thought Philip did a very good job. Philip felt unjustly treated and rightly so, because he could have won on the horse today."

Another disgruntled rider was Eddie Ahern, who was left at the start of a farcical Temple Stakes on Forever Phoenix. Starting a five-furlong race by elastic is not asking for trouble, it is pleading for it and Epsom got what they deserved. The chaos was exacerbated by a low-flying helicopter filming for the BBC. Its presence made it near impossible for the starter to communicate with the jockeys.

"We just didn't have a run and it was totally shambolic," Mick Quinn, the trainer of Dragon Flyer, who was one of those badly affected, said. "That in any sport would be unprofessional, never mind a Group Two race with £110,000 in prize-money. I've seen better starts in National Hunt racing."