Royal Ascot: Majestic run promotes Ouija Board to first lady

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The Independent Online

It is not merely in dressing to kill that the female of the species is deadlier than the male. For no Ladies' Day raiment will match the inherent élan that yesterday commanded renewed homage for two of the most treasured mares of recent years.

Ouija Board and Soviet Song have both won countless hearts during a combined career of 37 races, but they reserved perhaps their most seductive performances yet for this opulent new stage. Certainly Royal Ascot could not have hoped for a better script to win over the crowds sampling the first two days of its new era. But whereas the star on Tuesday had been Takeover Target - a virile, sweaty bruiser from Australia - these two mares both produced an exhibition of pure class.

While Soviet Song satisfied herself with an elegant dismissal of her own sex in the Windsor Forest Stakes, Ouija Board outstripped some of the best colts in the world to win the most important race of the week.

The Prince of Wales's Stakes had drawn such a competitive field - led by David Junior and Electrocutionist, who had both plundered huge prizes in Dubai last time - that even her serial accomplishments did not qualify Ouija Board to start any shorter than 8-1. Yet the winning margin of half a length was a scant measure of her superiority in what was perhaps her defining performance.

Ed Dunlop had told Lord Derby that her best chance of success this week would be the Hardwicke Stakes on Saturday, but owner over-ruled trainer. "Come on," he said. "Let's have a real crack!"

And his sporting approach has enabled Ouija Board to discover the key to still greater fulfilment. For this drop back to 10 furlongs - the distance over which she produced extraordinary acceleration under a hopelessly ambitious ride in Hong Kong during the spring - prompted a much more decisive finish than she had mustered over a longer distance at Epsom last time.

It is not as if this was a searching test. Frankie Dettori artfully controlled the pace on Electrocutionist and the field remained clustered into the short straight. Olivier Peslier - riding Ouija Board for the first time - was trapped on the rail and the colts were all in full cry before he could winch her clear. Once switched, however, she needed only the most perfunctory encouragement to cut down Electrocutionist.

"She deserves a holiday now before coming back in the autumn," Dunlop said. "It has long been the plan to go to Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup. I thought she looked the best she has ever done today. Certainly I shall never have another horse like her."

The bold return of Electrocutionist gave Godolphin every right to expect better times ahead, possibly starting in the Coral Eclipse Stakes, though his priority will be the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. David Junior, just behind Manduro in fourth, may also go to the Eclipse.

Jamie Spencer suspected that he would have preferred a stronger gallop. Otherwise it was a flawless day for the champion, who added dramatic late swoops on Cesare and Red Evie to his joyride on Soviet Song. He rode the mare with great confidence, coasting in the rear before dashing past Echelon, even though her trainer feared that she had not quite come to hand.

"She had not really been firing at home," James Fanshawe said. "So that was a mighty relief. She'll go on to the Falmouth at the Newmarket July Meeting now before taking on the colts again. She has been around for a while now and she knows she's good. I had better not say what I think of her because my wife would not be too happy."

Echelon maintained a gallant pursuit in second and Fanshawe soon consoled her owners, Cheveley Park Stud, by winning them the Royal Hunt Cup with Cesare.

The re-laid turf has been praised by jockeys as "a carpet" but this race confirmed that there is a conveyor belt on the stands' rail.

"We had a good draw but we still needed luck, because he's a hold-up horse," Spencer said. "Fortunately it opened up. I was cruised through behind Richard Hughes - we were like a greyhound and hare." He treated Dettori and La Mottie the same way on Red Evie in the Sandringham Handicap, pouncing in the last stride, though he earned a four-day suspension for forcing a passage from the back.

Sir Michael Stoute saddled his 53rd Royal Ascot winner when Jeremy beat Asset in the Jersey Stakes, but there was consolation for the trainer of the runner-up when Gilded gave Richard Hannon a fourth success in the Queen Mary Stakes. "You couldn't drive a nail into her neck," he said. "She's as hard as iron." No wonder they are more lethal than the male.

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