10/24/2004 11:00PM

Lord Derby nearing a decision

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Trainer Ed Dunlop will not make a final decision until Tuesday at the earliest on Ouija Board's status for the Filly and Mare Turf. The 3-year-old English-bred sensation was also pre-entered in the Turf, in which she has first preference.

If Ouija Board's owner, Lord Derby, has the final say, it is likely Ouija Board will compete against her own kind in the Filly and Mare Turf.,

"Right now I'm leaning toward the Filly and Mare Turf," Lord Derby said by phone from Great Britain on Monday. "I'd always said that during her classic year she'd stay against her own sex, with the lone exception being the Arc; and a mile and three furlongs is a great distance for her."

The major concern for both Lord Derby and Dunlop was the bulky 14-horse field that was pre-entered for the Filly and Mare Turf. But some of those fears were alleviated on Monday when they learned Stay Forever had been declared from the race and Nebraska Tornado was almost certain to run in the Distaff.

"Cutting the field down to 12 certainly helps," Lord Derby said.

Ouija Board will be a heavy favorite if she stays in the Filly and Mare Turf. She's already won both the English and Irish Oaks this year and most recently finished a late-running third against males in the Arc de Triomphe. She worked seven furlongs at Newmarket on Saturday and arrived at Lone Star on Monday.

Stay Forever was withdrawn Monday from the Filly and Mare Turf by trainer Marty Wolfson, who said the 7-year-old mare had not been herself since winning the Grade 2 WinStar Galaxy Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 10.

"I just haven't liked the way she's been acting since she returned from Kentucky," Wolfson explained. "She just hasn't come back to herself yet. I canceled her scheduled work on Sunday and informed the owners it was in her best interests to bypass the Breeders' Cup and point for the Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream in January."

Nebraska Tornado has first preference in the Distaff. She is owned by Juddmonte Farms, who also has Light Jig in the Filly and Mare Turf.

Bobby Frankel, who trains Light Jig, said Sunday that Juddmonte would not run both horses in the Filly and Mare Turf and that barring a last minute change in Light Jig's status, Nebraska Tornado would compete in the Distaff.

Light Jig was one of several Filly and Mare Turf contenders to work on Sunday, along with Super Brand and Riskaverse, who both breezed over the turf at Belmont Park.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is extremely pleased with the way Super Brand is coming into the race. Purchased privately by Team Valor after capping off her 2003 campaign with a victory in a Group 3 race in her native South Africa, Super Brand eventually made her way into McLaughlin's barn after brief stays with Mike de Kock and Ralph Nicks.

Super Brand has made two starts for McLaughlin, finishing third, beaten less than a length, in Saratoga's restricted De la Rose Stakes, and second, a half-length behind Stay Forever, in the WinStar Galaxy.

"I was very pleased with her work," said McLaughlin. "I'm hoping her third start will be her best. At least I'm confident she's going into this one 100 percent fit, and the jockey knows her a lot better now than the first time they were together in Kentucky."

Pat Day has a return call aboard Super Brand in the Filly and Mare Turf.