10/27/2006 12:00AM

Ouija Board gets finishing touches


It is difficult enough to keep track of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf contenders stabled in New York, Maryland, Kentucky, and California, but for U.S. fans, the progress of the likely race favorite, Ouija Board, is unfolding far, far from the public eye.

Home for Ouija Board is Gainsborough Stables, a training center in Newmarket, England, and the base for trainer Ed Dunlop. It is there - and not even at the racecourse - that the final touches are being put on Ouija Board's preparations for her third run in the Filly and Mare Turf, and those preparations, according to those closest to Ouija Board, are going well.

Bypassing potential prep races in France and England, Dunlop elected to bring Ouija Board to Churchill Downs a fresh horse, without a race since Sept. 9, which means her training toward the Filly and Mare Turf has taken on added significance. Ouija Board, Dunlop said Friday, would have "a little blowout" on Saturday morning - a major work day for Filly and Mare Turf hopefuls - but that her main work for the race took place last weekend.

"Frankie Dettori rode her last Saturday, and he was very happy with her work," Dunlop said. "She seems fine, she looks well."

Ouija Board, who won the 2004 Filly and Mare Turf as a 3-year-old, and finished second in the race last year, ships from England to Kentucky on Sunday. Dettori has been booked to ride her in the Breeders' Cup.

One Filly and Mare Turf hopeful not awaiting the weekend to breeze was Germance, the French-trained filly who finished a close fourth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 14. She turned in a half-mile breeze in 49 seconds Friday morning over the all-weather surface at Keeneland.- Marcus Hersh

Thor's Echo: Sitting on a win?

Anybody looking for a live longshot in the Breeders' Cup Sprint could do worse than take a stab with Thor's Echo, who is 20-1 on the morning line of Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, Mike Watchmaker.

Thor's Echo has not won a race in 14 months, and his most important victory came in the nine-furlong WinStar Derby at 3. But Thor's Echo, a gelded son of Swiss Yodeler, became a millionaire and earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 116 when he was beaten only a length by Bordonaro in the Grade 1 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap earlier this month. Earlier this year he finished second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.

More importantly, trainer Doug O'Neill said Thor's Echo couldn't be coming up to the Sprint any better after sending him out to work six furlongs in 1:14.15 seconds over Keeneland's Polytrack on Friday. Exercise rider Tony Romero was aboard.

"He sure worked well," said O'Neill. "Really, really well. Tony told me after the work he thinks this horse is coming up to the Breeders' Cup better than he did for the Dubai Classic, and he was there with the horse the entire time in Dubai. The main thing is how well he has bounced out of the Ancient Title even though he ran such a fast race."

O'Neill also likes the way the Sprint figures to set up for his horse.

"They should be going at it pretty good right from the start," said O'Neill. "A lot will depend on how the track is playing on Breeders' Cup Day, but he's a versatile horse capable of laying up close or coming from out of it."- Mike Welsch

Wet weather stops Skip Code work

The relentless rain that struck the Louisville-Lexington area on Friday morning left the Churchill Downs track in sloppy condition and caused trainer Mark Casse to cancel a scheduled work for Skip Code, who won Woodbine's Grey Stakes in his final tune-up for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"The weather was too bad," Casse said. "It was so nasty. I'll probably push the work back to Sunday. I gave him a day off today. He didn't even go to the track. I'd like to gallop him [Saturday] and then breeze him Sunday, but he had his big work last week, so I might not even breeze him."

Only 18 horses braved the elements to record workouts at Churchill on Friday.

Skip Code has won twice in four starts. Both his victories came on Woodbine's Polytrack surface. He worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 - the best time of 91 at the distance - at Woodbine on Oct. 21 before traveling to Churchill Downs earlier this week.- Jay Privman