04/16/2009 11:00PM

Koonunga Hill tops Star Shoot


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Koonunga Hill will begin her march toward the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks on Saturday in the $150,000 Star Shoot Stakes, an open six-furlong dash for 3-year-old fillies.

Koonunga Hill was among the leading Ontario-bred 2-year-old fillies at Woodbine last year. She graduated second time out in June before placing in two restricted stakes, the Shady Well and the Nandi.

Koonunga Hill led throughout the seven-furlong Ice Water Stakes in August, and then ran third in another turf stakes, the Grade 3 Natalma. She has been sidelined since finishing a dull fifth in the six-furlong Victorian Queen Stakes on Oct. 1.

Trainer Steve Owens bypassed the lucrative Princess Elizabeth Stakes on Nov. 1 with Koonunga Hill.

"She'd had enough races," Owens said. "She had seven races as a 2-year-old, and I probably shouldn't have sprinted her right back after running her on the turf. She'd done enough for us. She made $180,000.

"After her last race, we gave her the rest of the year off and turned her out for the winter. We started her back up in January, and she's been training really well. She has a good foundation. She matured over the wintertime."

Owens plans on using the seven-furlong Lady Angela Stakes on May 23 as Koonunga Hill's final prep for the nine-furlong Oaks, on June 7.

The other Oaks nominees in the six-horse field are Milwaukee Appeal, Double Malt, and Sans Sousi.

Milwaukee Appeal captured the 1 1/16-mile Ontario Lassie Stakes over favored Retraceable on Nov. 30 after ending up second in the Princess Elizabeth.

Double Malt took the 1 1/16-mile South Ocean Stakes for Ontario-sired fillies Nov. 12. She was never in serious contention after breaking slowly in her season opener in the La Voyageuse Stakes.

Sans Sousi pressed the pace along what appeared to be a dead rail and finished second to the winter-raced Mullins Beach in the five-furlong La Voyageuse.

Trainer Mike Doyle, who has won the Star Shoot six times, was tickled with Sans Sousi's comeback effort.

"She ran a gutsy race, and came out of it great," said Doyle. "My intention was to wait and run a bit later down the road, but with the short field, I thought I'd go in and have a look."

Deeveetee spent the winter at Santa Anita, where she won a first-level optional claimer Dec. 31. She was unplaced in her last two starts there, both in stakes.