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ROLLING BACK THE YEARS: Kooyonga queen for a day with regal win for Ireland; we look back to the day when Irish raider Kooyonga scored an impressive victory in Sandown's Group 1 showpiece.

Byline: Tim Richards


by Tim Richards

KOOYONGA is on course to be crowned Queen of Europe after Saturday's impressive Coral-Eclipse victory at Sandown.

The Irish-trained filly, who is set to return to England to put her big reputation on the line in the Juddmonte International at York next month, returned to cheers of Whitbread Gold Cup-day proportions after she strode to a length-and-a-half victory over Opera House.

She had Sapience a further length and a half back in third with Free Flyer fourth and Twist And Turn fifth.

Winning trainer Michael Kauntze admitted: "She won with such authority, it's quite unbelievable and I think this could be her best performance so far."

Ironically, as the cheers went up with Kooyonga being led into the winner's enclosure by her Japanese owner Mitsuo Haga, winning jockey Warren O'Connor raised his whip skywards in a gesture of appreciation.

It was the same whip that had cost him and Kooyonga dear when winning the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, only to be disqualified and placed third. O'Connor was banned for four days.

Kauntze, who has saddled Kooyonga to finish first in nine of her 14 races, had a word of thanks for rival trainer David Elsworth, who saddled the third horse Sapience.

"I owe a lot to David," recalled Kauntze. "In the parade ring David told me that there were about ten horses that had been instructed to lay up and be in the first three. `They'll go mad,' he said.

"After hearing this, I walked across to Warren and just said, `Cool it if they go very fast."

That is exactly what O'Connor did, riding an ultra-cool race as he brought Kooyonga from second last turning for home to take the lead in the centre of the track approaching the final furlong and win easily.

The long-term future for Kooyonga, who was bought by Noel Callaghan, chairman of BBA (Ireland) on behalf of Haga for $1.2m after she had finished second to Shadayid in the 1,000 Guineas last year, is as a foundation mare for her owner's new stud. Haga - who had a $1.5m bid for Culture Vulture turned down this year - purchased 215 acres of Spendrift Farm in Kentucky last month and the as-yet-unnamed stud will be Kooyonga's home when she retires after the Japan Cup.

Haga, 55, who has made his money in the Japanese leisure industry and owns two golf courses there, makes no secret that his dream is to win the Japan Cup with Kooyonga in front of his home crowd.

He returned to his home in Tokyo after the race on Saturday night but plans to invite everyone associated with Kooyonga for a special Eclipse victory celebration party in Las Vegas after the Keeneland Sales later this month.

Meanwhile, Kauntze, who has masterminded Kooyonga's brilliant career impeccably, said from his County Meath stables yesterday: "She never moved a muscle on the way over or back and she has had a good roll this morning. What else can they chuck at us?

"The International at York is very much part of the plan and then she will be rested before coming back at Leopardstown in the build-up to the Japan Cup."


Kooyonga and Warren O'Connor win the Coral-Eclipse Stakes from Opera House (4)
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jul 7, 2002
Previous Article:ROLLING BACK THE YEARS: Where are they now?...Michael Kauntze.
Next Article:Murphy vows to rebuild career as trial date for alleged assault on stewardess approaches.

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