06/07/2001 11:00PM

Imagine, Mutafaweq win at Epsom


EPSOM, England - Imagine captured the imagination of Epsom Downs on Friday with a stirring last-to-first triumph in the $512,000 Group 1 English Oaks.

Bet down to 3-1 favoritism over Queen Elizabeth's 3.30-1 Flight of Fancy, Imagine handled the step up to 1 1/2 miles with aplomb. With the Oaks victory and her earlier triumph in the Irish 1000 Guineas, she now must be considered the best 3-year-old filly in Europe.

This was yet another big-race victory for John Magnier and his remarkable 31-year-old trainer, Aidan O'Brien, on a day when it was announced that Magnier's Coolmore Stud had struck a deal with Lord Weinstock to stand 2000 Guineas winner and Epsom Derby favorite Golan in 2002.

Imagine took the Oaks despite experiencing difficulty coming down the tricky left-handed hill five furlongs from the wire. But the trouble she experienced was mild compared to that of runner-up Flight of Fancy, who was checked twice by rider Kieren Fallon in the last half mile, yet fell short by only 1 1/4 lengths.

But nothing can be taken away from Imagine, who is likely to be a short-priced favorite for the Irish Oaks on July 14.

O'Brien suggested that Imagine might have bigger fish to fry. "She's so big and strong," he said. "She could handle colts when the time comes."

And that time just could be at Longchamp on Oct. 7, the date of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Coronation for Mutafaweq, Dettori

Frankie Dettori reminded the crowd at Epsom why he is considered one of the world's best jockeys with a brilliant ride aboard Mutafaweq in the Group 1 Coronation Cup.

With none of his five rivals willing to take the lead, Dettori put the game winner of the Canadian International on the front end and stayed there.

Dettori slipped clear of the field rounding Tattenham Corner into the stretch, 3-1/2 furlongs form the line. Richard Quinn brought Wellbeing with what looked like a winning move, but Mutafaweq gutted it out to win by a nose at, getting the 1-1/2 miles in 2:36.65.

"This horse reqally loves firm ground," said Dettori, "and he's a really hard horse to get by. I'm really glad he has a big nose."

Millenary, the 3-2 choice just held on for third, four lengths behind Wellbeing, who is co-owned by George Strawbridge, but the three-time Group 1 filly Petrushka looked dull in finishing a distant fifth.

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot on July 27 could be next on the agenda for Mutafaweq.