Ouija poised to join the greats

ALL eyes will be on the Coral-Eclipse today as the nine declared runners do battle up the punishing Sandown hill in one of the highlights of the season.

Pebbles, Nashwan, Dancing Brave and Giant’s Causeway are just a few of the top-class horses to have landed this prestigious contest in years gone by and Ed Dunlop is hoping star-mare Ouija Board can join the illustrious roll of honour.

The daughter of Cape Cross produced a superb turn of foot to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last month and Dunlop has been thrilled with her progress since.

“She seems very well and I’ve been very happy with how she came out of her race at Royal Ascot. She put all the weight back on very quickly that she lost,” he told his website www.edunlop.com.

“She is doing very well in this weather – she seems to love the heat. She thrives at this time of year, by the looks of it.

“She did a routine piece of work last Monday and that went well. Touch wood, so far, there have been no hiccups going into the race,” he declared.

Among the opposition is David Junior who is said to have been found out by the lack of early pace when only fourth to Ouija Board at Ascot last time.

David Junior’s connections purchased Royal Alchemist from Mark Usher’s yard earlier this week and will employ her as pacemaker to ensure a similar story does not unfold today.

Speaking of David Junior, Meehan said: “He did his final piece of work on Thursday morning and his regular rider was very happy with him.

“It is not long since Ascot but he looks really well and is happy with himself.

“Ascot was a bit of a muddling race and the mare swooped – she is a wonderful mare and to finish fourth to her isn’t bad.

“Ouija Board has beaten us and now we have to beat her – that is the beauty of racing. We are not going to run and hide,” he said.

Meehan also intimated that recent acquisition Royal Alchemist is expected to acquit herself well in the £425,000 test.

“If she helps the pace for David Junior then that is good for David Junior but she is there to run as well as she can – and she should go well,” he said.

Following the announcement that Kieren Fallon will be prohibited from riding in Britain on his Irish licence, Johnny Murtagh has been drafted in to ride Aussie Rules.

The Ballydoyle team landed last year’s contest with Oratorio, and will be hoping Aussie Rules can rediscover the form that carried him to success in the French 2000 Guineas earlier this season.

Sir Michael Stoute last tasted success in this contest with Medicean in 2001 and the Newmarket-based handler relies on Notnowcato and Notable Guest this time around. Of the latter, Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, said: “I spoke to Sir Michael Stoute on Thursday and he says the horse is in good form. I don’t think he handled Epsom as well as we hoped he might last time, but he has run nicely at Sandown before.”

Blue Monday and Snoqualmie Boy were both supplemented at a cost of £20,000 and their respective connections will be hoping they justify that decision by running well.

Steve Drowne, Blue Monday’s big-race jockey said: “It will obviously be a tricky race with Ouija Board and David Junior but I think he has place chances and you never know – if we do get the heavy showers it will really help him.”

Snoqualmie Boy landed the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, and John Egan can’t wait to get back in the saddle.

“I’m looking forward to it – he ran very well at Ascot and we’re very happy with him,” he said.

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