Racing: Ouija Board's class should confound Dunlop's fears

Tomorrow Ouija Board, such an impressive winner of the Oaks last month, will attempt to become the 10th filly to add the Hibernian equivalent of the fillies' premier Classic to her CV. She has just six rivals in the 110th Irish Oaks and if it seems a daunting statistic that only nine previous Epsom heroines have completed the double in more than a century, closer investigation reveals that the ratio is actually fifty-fifty. Only 18 have essayed the task; Masaka, in 1948, being the first to try and the first to succeed and was followed in victory by Altesse Royale, Juliette Marny, Fair Salinia, Blue Wind, Unite, Diminuendo, User Friendly and Ramruma.

Tomorrow Ouija Board, such an impressive winner of the Oaks last month, will attempt to become the 10th filly to add the Hibernian equivalent of the fillies' premier Classic to her CV. She has just six rivals in the 110th Irish Oaks and if it seems a daunting statistic that only nine previous Epsom heroines have completed the double in more than a century, closer investigation reveals that the ratio is actually fifty-fifty. Only 18 have essayed the task; Masaka, in 1948, being the first to try and the first to succeed and was followed in victory by Altesse Royale, Juliette Marny, Fair Salinia, Blue Wind, Unite, Diminuendo, User Friendly and Ramruma.

Ouija Board (4.15), who trounced All To Beautiful by seven lengths with subsequent Ribblesdale Stakes winner Punctilious trailing in third place, will start odds-on favourite and even given the poor recent record of market leaders (only two successful in the past 10 years), the propensity of the 12-furlong contest to produce surprises (Margarula scored at 33-1 two years ago) and the pessimism of trainer Ed Dunlop ("I'm sure the course will suit All Too Beautiful and Punctilious far better than Epsom did") it is hard to see Lord Derby's darling beaten.

Dunlop's refusal to count chickens in his quest for a ninth Group One success (and his second in the Irish Oaks, after Lailani two years ago) probably owes more to wood-touching caution than logic. His charge's superiority over her rivals in the Oaks was absolute and fluke-free and even if All Too Beautiful has improved, as she is entitled to do, seven lengths is a long way to make up on a filly who has stood still neither literally nor metaphorically in the meantime. Her homework in Newmarket during the past two weeks has been of a high order and she revealed at Epsom that she is possessed not only of the high-class racehorse's ability to change gear but of stamina enough for a mile-and-a-half test, becoming a rare enough commodity.

It is hard to look beyond the Oaks places for the frame-fillers again tomorrow but if there is to be an interloper from among the long-priced contenders it may be Hazarista, who seems to be progressing as she steps up in trip and beat a subsequent dual winner on her latest run.

All Too Beautiful is the last Classic throw of the summer for the Ballydoyle dice but before that Aidan O'Brien's attention will be firmly focussed on a colt on whom so many close season hopes in that department were pinned. One Cool Cat started favourite for the 2,000 Guineas after a glittering two-year-old career that just about justified his cost of $3.1 million as a yearling but flopped embarrassingly, virtually pulled up after suffering an irregular heartbeat.

Given his potential stallion valuation, it is a bold enough call to bring him out again (in today's Group Three International Stakes) but even if he runs to anything like his best form he will do well to concede his 7lb Group One penalty to Wathab (4.00), who was only a length behind him last year and was unsuited by soft ground on his seasonal debut.

There is a distinct focus on juveniles this afternoon, on both sides of the Irish Sea. O'Brien unleashes Mona Lisa, reputedly his best of her age and sex, in the seven-furlong maiden that opens the Curragh card, though she will be a watching, rather than betting, prospect. There will be more for the punter at Newbury, where 24 two-year-olds line up for the day's richest contest, the Weatherbys Super Sprint, a five-furlong dash confined to animals sold cheaply (if up to 40,000 guineas, very much more than most people earn in a year, counts as cheap) as yearlings at auction.

The race has been farmed by Richard Hannon, who fields four runners in his quest for a sixth win, including the likely favourite Don't Tell Mum and although she performed with credit when sixth in the Queen Mary Stakes, preference is for another outclassed at the Royal meeting, Alta Petens (3.00).

On his debut at York last month Blues and Royals (nap 3.30) won the contest taken 12 months previously by One Cool Cat and can continue his progress up the ladder today, and instigate an across-the-card double for the Godolphin team to be completed by Fighting Tom Cat (3.55) at Newmarket.

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