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'She changed my life and I owe her a huge, huge debt' - Ouija Board dies aged 21

Ouija Board and Kieren Fallon win the 2004 Oaks
Ouija Board and Kieren Fallon win the 2004 OaksCredit: Mark Cranham (

Ouija Board, a winner seven times at the top level who went on to produce Derby winner and Group 1 sire Australia, has died at the age of 21. The announcement was made by Lord and Lady Derby who bred and owned the daughter of Cape Cross.

“In our wildest dreams, we never imagined we could breed a horse that would be a global record-breaker and inspire so many with so many happy memories,” the couple said in a statement released last night.

“She was simply the best and always had the most wonderful temperament; she loved a hug and a polo mint every time we walked around the stud. We were so lucky to have her in our lives as she brought us so much joy. The fun and the pleasure that she gave us in a four-year journey around the globe will give us happy memories forever.”

That odyssey took Ouija Board, her owner-breeders and trainer Ed Dunlop from Newmarket to Hong Kong with glorious stops in Texas, the Curragh, Ascot, Goodwood and Churchill Downs along the way. In her four seasons to race, Ouija Board won ten of her 22 starts along with eight placed finishes.

A maiden winner and Listed-placed at two, she earned her first black type success in the Pretty Polly Stakes on her seasonal reappearance at three, warming up for a Classic success in the Oaks at Epsom, which she followed with victory in the Irish version at the Curragh as 4-7 favourite.

Ed Dunlop with his wonder mare Ouija Board at Stanley House Stud last year
Ed Dunlop with his wonder mare Ouija BoardCredit: Edward Whitaker

After a mid-summer break she was just a length-and-a-half third to Bago in the Arc, in which she was two lengths clear of that season’s Derby winner North Light. Her final start as a three-year-old saw her return in triumph after the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Lone Star Park.

Ouija Board remained in training at four and once more was on her travels, earning the first of her Hong Kong Vase triumphs at the end of a season which included a narrow second to Intercontinental when attempting back-to-back Breeders’ Cup successes.

At five she made her seasonal reappearance in the Dubai Sheema Classic in which she was fourth to Heart’s Cry, then returned to Hong Kong for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup. She was beaten a neck into third then was back on the stage at Epsom, finishing runner-up to Shirocco in the Coronation Cup over the Oaks course and distance.

Her first victory of the season came at Royal Ascot in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and then came two epic encounters, the first with fellow globe-trotting mare Alexander Goldrun in the Nassau Stakes, and the second against Dylan Thomas in the Irish Champion Stakes. She came out on top at Goodwood but went out on her shield against the younger horse at Leopardstown.

The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs in November 2006 provided a seventh and final triumph at the top while she brought the curtain down on her glittering racing career later that month when third to Deep Impact in the Japan Cup.

Dunlop paid a glowing and heartfelt tribute to the mare who wrote his name in headlines around the world.

“What a champion she was!” he said. “I was so, so lucky to be entrusted with such a great horse. There were so many happy and great moments with her that it is impossible to single one out. Winning the Oaks was so special for me as a trainer, and the iconic Nassau battle will live long in the memory. Putting it simply, she changed my life and I owe her a huge, huge debt.”

Brilliant racemares do not always make good mothers but Ouija Board earned her place in the bloodstock annals through her son Australia. The 2014 Derby, Irish Derby and Juddmonte International hero became the first winner in the 250 year history of the Epsom Classic to be by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner.

Australia - Joseph O'Brien wins from Kingston Hill - Andrea AtzeniThe Investec Derby (Group 1) Epsom 7/6/2014.©
Australia (purple): the 2014 Derby, Irish Derby and Juddmonte International heroCredit: Mark Cranham (

The chestnut son of Galileo has sired five individual Group 1 winners so far from his base at Coolmore but is not the only son of Ouija Board to have earned himself at spot at stud. His Dubawi half-brother Frontiersman won the Listed Godolphin Stakes and emulated his dam with a second-place finish in the Coronation Cup. Now a nine-year-old, he stands at Overbury Stud and his oldest crop are just two this year.

They also have a Kingmambo half-brother, Voodoo Prince, who was Ouija Board’s first foal. He raced for three seasons for Lord Derby and Dunlop before he was sold to race in Australia where he won the Group 3 Easter Cup for Chris Waller.

Lord Derby also retained her second foal, a son of Monsun named Aegeus, who won twice for his owner-breeder and Dunlop before his sale.

Ouija Board foaled just one daughter, Filia Regina, a Galileo full-sister to Australia and Peter Stanley, who manages the family’s Stanley House Stud, commented on how sad it was that she produced a single filly.

“She danced every dance and more besides. Her stud career was equally inspiring, producing both the 2014 Derby winner and the favourite for that year’s Melbourne Cup and she followed this up with Frontiersman finishing second in the Group 1 Coronation Cup. If I have one sadness, it is that she left us only one daughter, but the truth is she was a joy from beginning to end.”

That daughter is now the dam of three winners and her unraced two-year-old Kingman colt named Born Ruler is in training with Sir Mark Prescott with an entry in next year’s Derby.

Ouija Board’s exploits also inspired Ling Tsui to breed Sea The Stars, sending Urban Sea to Cape Cross because of his daughter’s brilliant career.

Ouija Board

Born: March 6, 2001
Breeder: Stanley Estate & Stud Co
Sire: Cape Cross
Dam: Selection Board
Trainer: Ed Dunlop
Owner: Lord Derby
Major wins: Oaks (2004), Irish Oaks (2004), Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (2004 & 2006), Princess Royal Stakes (2005), Hong, Kong Vase (2005), Prince of Wales's Stakes (2006) and Nassau Stakes (2006)

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Published on 30 November 2022Last updated 18:13, 30 November 2022