10/27/2005 11:00PM

Champ favored in her title defense

Ouija Board has raced only twice since winning the Filly and Mare Turf last year (above), her 2005 campaign hurt by nagging injuries.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Ouija Board's reputation will make her the favorite when she attempts to defend her title in Saturday's $1,060,000 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Belmont Park.

The star filly from England will need a performance every bit as good as her win in 2004 in Texas to beat 13 rivals over 1 1/4 miles.

Ouija Board has not scared anyone off. None of the nation's top turf females is missing from the major prep races run throughout the United States in early October.

The BC Filly and Mare Turf includes the first three finishers of the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park - Riskaverse, Wonder Again and Film Maker; the first two finishers of the Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita - Megahertz and Flip Flop; and the first two from the WinStar Galaxy Stakes at Keeneland - Intercontinental and Wend.

Also in the field are Luas Line, the winner of the Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap here in September, and the longshots Angara, Favourable Terms, Karen's Caper, Mona Lisa, and Sundrop.

In some ways, Ouija Board's form of 2005 is difficult to assess. Trained in England by Ed Dunlop, Ouija Board has been plagued by minor injuries in the last year. She has started only twice since the 2004 Filly and Mare Turf, finishing seventh in the Prince of Wales's Stakes against males in June and winning the Group 3 John Doyle Stakes at Newmarket in September. The John Doyle win came against a modest field. Saturday, Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey will ride Ouija Board for the first time.

"If Ouija Board is back to her form from last year, she'll be tough," said trainer Graham Motion, who starts Film Maker. "But it's a question mark, since she's only run twice this year."

The race will be run in difficult conditions. The course has been saturated by rain in recent weeks, and good-to-soft going is expected.

"The ground will play a major factor," said jockey Frankie Dettori, who rides the outsider Sundrop. "It will be extreme."

Intercontinental, a winner of six stakes in the last two years, may set the pace, closely

followed by the 3-year-old fillies Karen's Caper and Luas Line. Most of the entrants are stalkers or closers, including Riskaverse, who has won three turf stakes at Belmont on courses ranging from firm to yielding.

"She had a great race the other day," trainer Pat Kelly said of the Flower Bowl.

Riskaverse, 6, is making her fourth consecutive appearance in the Filly and Mare Turf. Saturday's race is likely to be the final start of her 32-race career. Last year, Riskaverse finished eighth behind Ouija Board, a loss that Kelly quickly dismissed.

"At a mile and three-eighths, - the race's distance last year - "it wasn't her race," said Kelly. "We had a tough post and ran around the outside of the track the whole way."

Megahertz is making her third consecutive appearance in the Filly and Mare Turf, having been fifth in 2003 and 11th last year. This year, Megahertz has been a star for trainer Bobby Frankel, winning 4 of 5 starts, with all the wins coming in California stakes on firm ground. The lone loss was a second in the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park in August on yielding turf. A win on Saturday would make Megahertz a landslide winner in the voting for the outstanding turf female of 2005.

One trainer pleased with the prospect of a soft turf is Jim Toner, who starts Wonder Again. A closer, Wonder Again was third in 2004 Filly and Mare Turf, losing by 1 3/4 lengths to Ouija Board.

"If it's good, it will be fine for her," Toner said of the ground.

Toner won the first Filly and Mare Turf in 1999 with Soaring Softly,

In the brief six-year history of the race, there have been no two-time winners. Banks Hill, the 2001 winner, is the only one to try, finishing second in 2002.

Ouija Board will attempt to set that milestone on Saturday, and prove that she's as good as she was in 2004.