01/26/2007 1:00AM

Ouija Board's one race was one for the ages


Ouija Board made only a single 2006 start in the United States, but those who witnessed it saw a performance that should linger in memory.

Ouija Board waltzed into Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf and skipped to an easy 2 1/4-length victory over the best American long-distance turf females.

"With no disrespect to the rest, she won at the Breeders' Cup with her eyes closed," trainer Ed Dunlop told England's Racing Post.

Dunlop made his comment as part of a retrospective on this great mare's career. A day before she was to have made the last start of her career in the Dec. 9 Hong Kong Vase, Ouija Board came up lame with a recurrence of a splint-bone injury that compromised her 2005 campaign. Her connections took no chances, quickly calling a halt to plans for a repeat bid in the prestigious Vase.

And so ended the racing career of one of the best fillies in recent history - even by lofty European standards. On Monday, Ouija Board was honored with her second Eclipse Award for champion turf filly or mare. She also took the title in 2004 after winning the Filly and Mare Turf at Lone Star.

In 2005, still climbing toward her best form after her injury, and chasing Intercontinental, who had slipped loose on an easy lead, she finished second in the Filly and Mare Turf at Belmont. She went on to finish third in the Japan Cup before winding up her season with the Hong Kong Vase win.

Lord Derby, Ouija Board's owner and breeder, sportingly brought Ouija Board back for her 5-year-old season, and the mare's form held firm throughout a year that began in Dubai, moved home to England for the summer, swung Stateside in the fall, and ended with another Japan Cup third. Ouija Board wound up with three victories in 2006, including the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes and the Group 1 Nassau Stakes before the Breeders' Cup. Frankie Dettori, who rode Ouija Board in three of her last four races, called the narrow Nassau win over Alexander Goldrun at the Goodwood course the race of the year in England.

Ouija Board's payday in the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf made her the richest female racehorse, with $5,765,646 in earnings, and had she run in the Hong Kong Vase, Ouija Board could have overtaken Singspiel as the richest English racehorse of all time. As it stands, she ranks second on that list. Ouija Board, a British-bred daughter of the Irish stallion Cape Cross, was U.S. champion turf female in 2004 and twice was named Horse of the Year by England's Racing Post.

This year, she arrived in Louisville, Ky., six days in advance of the Filly and Mare Turf, and unlike many of her overseas counterparts, Ouija Board always looked at home. She walked calmly from Churchill's quarantine barn to the racetrack for her first morning of training, and always carried herself with ease. And while the 2006 Breeders' Cup had plenty of moments, few were more spellbinding than the last half-mile of the Filly and Mare Turf. Dettori squeezed Ouija Board through an opening on the race's final turn, and just as she came into full view of the Churchill crowd, Ouija Board threw down her trademark acceleration. She ran alone in front of a crowd whose cheers only grew more raucous when Ouija Board came back to be unsaddled. There, for all to see, was a great racehorse.

* VOTING: Ouija Board (GB), 217; Gorella (FR) 35; Wait a While 15. Voter abstentions, 4.