10/11/2006 11:00PM

Ouija Board skips Champion to await Breeders' Cup


The gallant 6-year-old French-bred mare Pride can take advantage of a vulnerable Hurricane Run in the Group 1, $650,000 Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday in a race that will go without Ouija Board, who will instead head directly to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, Pride is a daughter of 1997 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Peintre Celbere who finished three- quarters of a length second behind BC Classic hopeful David Junior in last year’s Champion. This year, she beat Hurricane Run in the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in June and was equally impressive when finishing in front of him again when a fast-closing second to Rail Link in the Arc on Oct. 1. The straight 10 furlongs at Newmarket suits her to a tee, as will the good to soft conditions predicted for the weekend. Christophe Lemaire has the ride.

Hurricane Run’s victory in the 2005 Arc earned him the European championship, but he has been beaten in 3 of 5 starts this year. The cut back to 1 1/4 miles may not be in the best interest of the 4-year-old Hurricane Run, who will be ridden for the first time by Michael Kinane. His regular rider, Christophe Soumillon, has been replaced by trainer Andre Fabre following a public dispute between the two at Maisons-Laffitte last Saturday.

Even more vulnerable is Sir Percy, the life-and-death winner of the Epsom Derby on June 3 who has not run since then. Michael Stoute has entered a trio of cnadidates. Notnowcato and Maraahel, separated by just a short head in a subpar Juddmonte International at York on Aug. 22, are fresh and fit if a bit out of their depth, while Rob Roy, winner of the Group 2 Sandown Mile in April, flopped in last year’s Champion as a 3-year-old.

French Oaks winner Confidential Lady, just fifth in the longer Irish Oaks last time on July 16, will appreciate the return to 1 1/4 miles but is in tough.

While Ed Dunlop confirmed Ouija Board’s participation in the Filly and Mare Turf on Thursday, trainer Aidan O’Brien was removing both Dylan Thomas and Alexandrova from Breeders’ Cup consideration. Neither will run again this season, but they will both return next year.

The Group 1, $463,000 Dewhurst Stakes should decide the European juvenile championship as Teofilo and Holy Roman Emperor renew their rivalry in the straight seven-furlong race. Trained by Jim Bolger, Teofilo, a son of the hot stallion Galileo, defeated the O’Brien-trained Holy Roman Emperor by 1 1/4 lengths in the seven-furlong, Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh on Sept. 17. And while the Danehill colt Holy Roman Emperor has since won Longchamp’s seven-furlong, Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, Teofilo looks hard to beat.

Still, 13 will challenge the big two, the most dangerous of them Strategic Prince, a two-time Group 2 winner going six furlongs in the July Stakes and the Vintage Stakes. Hamoody, winner of the six-furlong, Group 2 Richmond Stakes, and Halicarnassus, who took the Group 2 Superlative Stakes over the Dewhurst course and distance last time, add spice to an intriguing contest.

Bolger will also saddle his longshot Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac winner Finsceal Beo in the Group 2, $130,000 Rockfel Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, but the drop from a mile to seven furlongs works against her. English Ballet, winner of the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes over the course and distance three back, has since been placed in a pair of one-mile group races and is better geared for seven furlongs.

The Group 2, $463,000 Challenge Stakes, which at seven furlongs had been expected to be a hot Breeders’ Cup Mile prep, came up a bit light as Godolphin’s Prix de la Foret winner Caradak takes a pass. The race could turn into a slugfest between a pair of late bloomers in Group 3 Jersey Stakes winner Jeremy and the undefeated O’Brien-trained Art Museum, a half-brother to Lil’s Lad who gets his acid test here.