01/24/2002 1:00AM

T.M. Opera O retired to stud

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T.M. Opera O, the world's leading Thoroughbred earner with $15,944,189 in career earnings, has been retired to stud.

A 6-year-old Japanese-bred son of Opera House, he won 14 of 26 starts for owner Masatsugu Takezono and trainer Ichizo Iwamoto. A victory in the Japanese 2000 Guineas made him Japan's champion 3-year-old in 1999. At 4, he won all eight of his starts, including the Japan Cup, victory in which put him Cigar's earnings mark of $9,999,815. After winning the Arima Kinen (Japanese Grand Prix), T.M. Opera O was named Horse of the Year and champion older horse in Japan.

This past year he won just two of seven starts and narrowly missed in his attempt for a second Japan Cup triumph, going down to the eventual Japanese Horse of the Year, Jungle Pocket, by a neck.

T.M. Opera O will stand at East Stud in Japan.