06/20/2014 3:29PM

Sparkman: A continent of Ouija Board's own

Barbara D. Livingston
Ouija Board, seen here with the 19th Earl of Derby, has become a classic producer.

This must be the year for unique achievements for the dams of European classic winners. Only a week after Holy Moon produced her third consecutive Italian Oaks winner, the great racemare Ouija Board became the first mare who crossed the finish line first in the Epsom Oaks to produce a winner of the Epsom Derby sired by another Epsom Derby winner.

Officially, of course, Australia, the 3-year-old son of 2001 Epsom Derby winner Galileo and 2004 Epsom Oaks winner Ouija Board, is the second Derby winner by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner, but Snow Bride, dam of 1995 Epsom Derby winner Lammtarra, by 1970 Epsom Derby winner Nijinsky II, actually finished second in the 1989 Epsom Oaks but was awarded the official victory months later when the Aga Khan’s Aliysa controversially was disqualified because of barely detectable evidence of camphor in her urine.

The Oaks, first run in 1779, is the second-oldest classic in the racing world, preceded only by the St. Leger Stakes founded in 1776. The Epsom Oaks was conceived in 1778 at a dinner party hosted by the 12th Earl of Derby at the earl’s house near Epsom called The Oaks. Lord Derby’s Bridget, by Herod, was the first Oaks winner, which led the 12th Earl to suggest a companion race for colts to begin in 1780. According to legend, Lord Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury flipped a coin to determine whether the race would be called the Derby Stakes or the Bunbury Stakes.

Thus it is exceptionally appropriate that Australia, the first horse sired by a winner of the Derby out of a mare who finished first in the Oaks, was bred by the 12th Earl of Derby’s direct male-line descendant, the 19th Earl of Derby, Edward Stanley. Australia is a fifth-generation tail-female descendant of Gradisca, by Goya, a mare the 19th Earl’s uncle, the 18th Earl, acquired in a trade with the late Elisabeth Couturie of Haras du Mesnil. Gradisca’s dam, Phebe, by Pharos, was a half-sister to 1928 Prix d’Ispahan winner Rialto, by Rabelais, from a very good French family.

Madame Couturie appeared to get rather the better of the trade in the short run, since Gradisca’s filly she retained, Tahiti, by Tornado, won the 1954 French Oaks. Moreover, the mare she received from Lord Derby, Amboyna – a half-sister by Bois Roussel to Alycidon, the last great racehorse bred by the 17th Earl of Derby – produced Criterium de Saint-Cloud winner Tracy, by Tosco, and French Derby second Antares, by Norseman, at Haras du Mesnil. Amboyna already had produced stakes winner Ash Plant, by Nepenthe, for Lord Derby, subsequently dam of 1960 Belmont Stakes winner Celtic Ash, by Sicambre.

Gradisca failed to produce a stakes winner for the 18th Earl, but she foaled two significant daughters, both by Alycidon. Almah failed to place in two starts, but her unraced daughter, Ada Hunter, by Andrea Mantegna, was exported to Australia, where she produced Kingston Town, by Bletchingly, one of the greatest runners in Australian history.

Lord Derby retained Almah’s unraced full sister Samanda, who also did not produce a stakes winner, but the family finally came right with the arrival of Samanda’s daughter, Ouija, by Silly Season, a top-class miler by Tom Fool raced in England by the American Anglophile Paul Mellon. Ouija is the dam of the best horse bred and raced by the 18th Earl of Derby, Teleprompter, by Welsh Pageant, and Group 3 winner Chatoyant, by Rainbow Quest. A late-developing gelding, Teleprompter matured into one of the best milers in Europe at 4 and 5, winning five Group 2 and Group 3 races, and crowned his career with a victory in the 1985 Grade 1 Arlington Million.

Teleprompter’s half-sister, Rosia Bay, by High Top, was sold to Lord Porchester, who bred the top-class stayer Ibn Bey, by Mill Reef, a champion and multiple Group 1 winner in Europe who ran an excellent second to Unbridled in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Ibn Bey’s half-sister, Roseate Tern, by Blakeney, finished third in that infamous Epsom Oaks of 1989, promoted to second on Aliysa’s disqualification, and won the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks.

The 19th Earl of Derby, therefore, had every reason to hope that Teleprompter’s placed full sister, Selection Board, might produce something worthwhile when he inherited both the title and the Stanley House Stud on the death of his uncle in 1994. Selection Board’s 2001 filly by Cape Cross, however, surpassed all possible expectations. Winner of the second of her three starts at 2 and third in the listed Montrose Fillies’ Stakes, Ouija Board improved out of all recognition when tried over longer distances at 3.

Winner of the 1 1/4-mile Pretty Polly Stakes by six lengths in her first outing as a 3-year-old, Ouija Board completely dominated the 2004 Epsom Oaks, drawing off to win by seven lengths from All Too Beautiful (a full sister, by the way, to Galileo). Ouija Board was less dominating in the Irish Oaks but still won by a length and finished third, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths, in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe behind Bago and Cherry Mix, her first outing against colts. Ouija Board closed out her championship season with a classy victory in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Lone Star Park, beating Film Maker by 1 1/2 lengths.

A minor injury compromised Ouija Board’s 4-year-old season, and she did not reach her best form until near the end of the year, when she ran second to Intercontinental in the Filly and Mare Turf. She then toured the Far East, finishing a dull fifth in the Japan Cup but winning the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase easily from an international field.

Ouija Board was back to her best at 5, beating Electrocutionist in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, Alexander Goldrun in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, and Film Maker again in the 2006 Filly and Mare Turf. Ouija Board retired to stud in 2007 with a wholly admirable record of 10 wins, three seconds, and five thirds from 22 starts for earnings of $6,312,552, a record for a British-trained mare. She was voted European Horse of the Year in 2004 and 2006 and earned Eclipse Awards as champion turf female in both of those campaigns.

Ouija Board’s first foal, Voodoo Prince, by Kingmambo, won three times in 17 starts in England and placed in a listed stakes. Sold for about $135,000 at the 2013 Tattersalls October horses of racing age sale, gelded, and exported to Australia, he captured the Group 3 Easter Cup at Caulfield this year. Her second foal, Aegaeus, by Monsun, won two minor races from 14 starts and sold for about $42,000 at the same sale. Ouija Board’s third foal, Filia Regina, by Galileo, won a maiden race at Yarmouth last year and was retired to stud. Australia is Ouija Board’s fourth foal and was sold for about $841,000 to Demi O’Byrne, agent for the Coolmore partnership, at the 2012 Tattersalls October yearling sale. Ouija Board has a yearling colt by Dubawi and was bred to Galileo again this year.

Galileo, of course, has had the reputation as the world’s best sire ever since he earned the second of his five English sire championships in 2010. It is a reputation fully earned and well deserved. Australia is among the best of his 178 stakes winners, 100 group or graded winners, and 42 Grade/Group 1 winners from 1,805 foals age 3 and up, a 9.9 percent stakes winners to foals ratio. Those numbers include seven official champions in major racing jurisdictions and an amazing 22 international classic winners, including the undefeated Frankel, sensational third-crop sire New Approach, and 2011 champion grass male and 2010 Irish Derby winner Cape Blanco.

Galileo himself won the first six of his eight starts, including the 2001 Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Australia is his third Epsom Derby-winning son, following New Approach and Ruler of the World.

As shown in the accompanying box, Ouija Board is actually the 10th winner in the 236-year history of the Oaks Stakes (including substitute races during the two World Wars) subsequently to produce a Derby winner. The names of those Derby and Oaks winners include some the most famous in the history of the Thoroughbred.

Bay Middleton, by Sultan out of 1824 Oaks winner Cobweb, usually is considered one of the first truly great racehorses to win the Derby and sired the great The Flying Dutchman. Blink Bonny, winner of the 1857 Oaks, was one of the great racemares of the 19th century, and Stockwell, the sire of her outstanding son, Blair Athol, should have added the Derby to his 1852 2000 Guineas and St. Leger wins but was a sick horse on Derby Day.

Bayardo, sire of wartime Derby winner Gainsborough out of Oaks winner Rosedrop, also probably should have won the Derby but lost all chance when Sir Martin fell directly in front of him. Charlottesville, sire of the great mare Meld’s Derby-winning son, Charlottown, won the French equivalent of the Derby, the Prix du Jockey Club.

That record of 10 Oaks winners producing Derby winners is actually an extraordinarily high percentage, given the long odds against any mare, regardless of race record, producing the winner of a specific race. Ouija Board’s feat may be unique, but top racemares producing top racehorses hardly is unprecedented.

It is, in fact, a comparatively high probability in the competitive world of Thoroughbred breeding.