Racing: Ouija Board tough enough to regain title
Saturday 04 November 2006
This meting remains the Turf's closest equivalent to the Ryder Cup, but has always been a home game for the Americans. That may yet change, with Polytrack and other synthetic surfaces being introduced around the nation, promising a more level playing field in the future. For the time being, however, the turf races remain much the most obvious source of European success.
This has been the hardest season already for Ouija Board (6.55) (right), although quite possibly her best as well. With physical maturity she seems to soak everything up more serenely than ever, and if still at her best will surely go close to retrieving the Filly & Mare Turf, a prize she surrendered last year to Intercontinental.
Intercontinental's great dam, Hasili, could produce her third Breeders' Cup winner when Cacique lines up for the Turf, but he must prove his stamina. Hurricane Run is the most able runner, if only he could restore the rhythm he seems to have lost this year. Scorpion (9.35) could assist with a strong pace but, as a fresher horse, could also prove hard to catch. He looks better value than Red Rocks, who has had a long year and must reach a new peak after a tiring race last time.
The Mile is very open, though the draw may have cost Aussie Rules his otherwise excellent chance. Araafa still looks in bristling form but Gorella (8.15), so unlucky last year, has passed up a less taxing opportunity against her own sex to seek amends here. She is an ideal foil for the talents of the French prodigy, Julien Leparoux.
Naturally the clear climax, either side of the Atlantic, is the Classic. George Washington definitely merits fidelity if the local Tote odds become too dismissive. He will probably finish either first or last, and a bet would not be merely sentimental.
It would be disappointing if this vintage field did not yield a true champion, but it could become such a bearpit that an outsider picks up the pieces. Lawyer Ron (10.20) is tempting on his first start for Todd Pletcher, while a case can be made for Premium Tap. David Junior looks in good shape and has every right to go well, too.
Stan Moore saddles Satulagi in the Juvenile Fillies', and she could conceivably go well in a field lacking depth, although the best value rests in another outsider, Quick Little Miss (5.30). Circular Quay (6.10) is better than he looked last time and his sensational performance at Saratoga in the summer qualifies him as the pick in the colts' race.
Henny Hughes has been the dominant sprinter in America this season but could be burned out by a savage pace here, potentially setting the race up for a strong finisher like Too Much Bling (7.35). And Pine Island (8.55) is being well reviewed for the Distaff.
Of course, the most intense rivalry today is not necessarily transatlantic - and could yield the best bet of all. Coral is betting on the relative fortunes of Sheikh Mohammed and Coolmore. With two favourites in Bernardini and Henny Hughes, as well as the Godolphin pair in the Mile and Balletto in the Distaff, Sheikh Mohammed is 5-4 to have more winners than Coolmore.
A tie is 6-4, leaving the Coolmore partnership looking excellent value at 11-4, their runners including both Scorpion and Hurricane Run in the Turf, an equivalent hand to Godolphin in the Mile, and Circular Quay. Oh, and they also have some animal named George Washington on their side.
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