05/30/2006 11:00PM

Shirocco, Ouija Board set for clash

Adam Coglianese / NYRA
Shirocco and Christophe Soumillon win the BC Turf. They will team up again on Saturday.

Breeders' Cup winners Shirocco and Ouija Board will go head to head Friday in the Group 1, $470,000 Coronation Cup on an Epsom card that also includes the 228th running of the English Oaks.

Shirocco has prospered since his victory in the Breeders' Cup Turf last October, landing the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket over the Coronation Cup distance of 1 1/2 miles on May 7. While the Newmarket track bears no resemblance to the bizarre twists and turns at Epsom, his trainer, Andre Fabre, knows a thing or two about what it takes to win at Epsom.

Fabre has won the Coronation Cup five times, although his last score came in 1996 with Swain. Fabre should break his drought with Shirocco, who will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon.

There is a perception that Shirocco must have soft ground to produce his best form, but Fabre does not agree. The going was good to soft at Epsom on Wednesday with dry weather predicted until the weekend. If the ground firms up considerably, though, it might enhance the chances of Ouija Board. Trained by Ed Dunlop, the mare was beaten just a neck when third on April 23 to Irridescence in the 1 1/4-mile Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin on good to firm ground. Frankie Dettori has the ride aboard Ouija Board, winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in 2004, when she had won the Oaks over the Coronation Cup course and distance earlier that same year.

If the big names falter, Ace is capable of springing an upset. Second to Shirocco in the Breeders' Cup Turf, he disappointed at 4-5 when he ran second in the listed 1 1/4-mile Mooresbridge Stakes in his May 1 return at The Curragh, but will appreciate the step back up to 1 1/2 miles.

The 12 furlongs of the $706,000 English Oaks is designed to separate the women from the girls. Short Skirt, trained by Michael Stoute, caught up with Alexandrova to win the 1 5/16-mile Group 3 Musidora Stakes, but she may not be the type to handle the tricky Epsom course. By Sadler's Wells out of a Shirley Heights mare, the Aidan O'Brien-trained Alexandrova is more likely to stay 1 1/2 miles and is the Oaks selection here, although Speciosa, the speedy winner of the one-mile 1000 Guineas, is a threat to take them all the way for unheralded trainer Pamela Sly.

* Given his choice of four Aidan O'Brien-trained horses as well as the Michael Stoute-trained Papal Bull, Kieren Fallon has decided to ride Horatio Nelson in the Epsom Derby on Saturday. As a result, Coral has cut Horatio Nelson's Derby price from 8-1 to 4-1. Visindar remains the 7-4 favorite.