Steve Haskin's Classic Report: Fantastic Sees the Light

Steve Haskin's Classic Report: Fantastic Sees the Light
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Godolphin Racing's Sakhee worked over the Belmont track Tuesday morning.
Unlike his non-work last Friday, Fantastic Light lit up the Belmont track Tuesday, as he blazed five furlongs in :59 4/5 with jockey Frankie Dettori aboard, flying home his final quarter in :23 2/5 and galloping out a strong six furlongs in 1:12 3/5. Private clockers caught him a tick faster in :59 3/5. About an hour and a half later, Godolphin's other star, Sakhee, also showed more life, working his five furlongs in 1:01, with regular exercise rider Lee Roebuck up.

Both colts had been scheduled to work on Wednesday, but after the arrival of trainer Saeed bin Suroor Monday night, it was decided to move the works up a day in order to give them more time to decide in which race each colt will run. While many are pushing for Godolphin to run Sakhee in the Turf, there still is a distinct possibility we could see both colts in the Classic. "Sheikh Hamdan (who owns Sakhee) will make the decision, and whatever he decides to fine with me," Suroor said.

Dettori arrived at the Godolphin barn just before 7 a.m. and was given a leg up on Fantastic Light. Suroor headed for the grandstand and gave the reason for the change in plans. "We want to see how both horses handle the dirt, and we wouldn't have had a lot of time to decide what to do if we waited until Wednesday," he said. "We're not interested in time. We're more interested in their action."

Right off the bat, it was obvious Fantastic Light was going to be much sharper today. Unlike Friday, when he nonchalantly strolled past the stands, he was on his toes and already into the bit. It was as if he realized that having Dettori on back meant serious business. Whereas on Friday he just cruised around there all the way, never getting out of a high gallop, today he broke from the five-furlong pole at full tilt. He carried his head much lower and was striding out with authority. Dettori just nudged him along and gave some mild pumping in the stretch, and Fantastic Light responded by ripping off a series of :12 eighths, then coming home in :23 2/5. He was hitting the ground well all the way, and did take a few extra strides before changing leads, but once he did he was very smooth. We liked the way he continued on strong past the wire, and weespecially liked the fact that he wasn't blowing walking back to the barn. There is no doubt this is a very fit horse.

"He's a true professional," Dettori said afterward. "I like the way he conducted himself today. He did it quite easy. He's a smart horse and he knows the game. He only does what you ask him to."

Dettori, of course, would prefer to see Fantastic Light as Godolphin's only Classic representative, which would enable him to ride both horses. Otherwise, he would have to decide between the two. "The Turf is there to be taken, and I'd like to Sakhee run there," he said. "At the end of the day, if they both run in the Classic, it would take the limelight away from one of them. And if they both flop it would be a disaster. All Sakhee has to do in the Turf is show up, and it would be a shame to let that one slip away."

After the break, it was Sakhee's turn, and Dettori watched this one from the apron in front of the Trackside Café. "Sakhee's been a bit funny and is an excitable horse," he said. "They want to keep the rider on who knows him We don't want him getting injured today by running across the rail."

Sakhee did not go out wearing the customary Breeders' Cup saddlecloth, with his name on it, and instead wore a simple white saddlecloth, so Suroor could pick him out easier. Sakhee also looked more on his toes this time, jogging by with his head down and neck arched. He broke smoothly from the five-furlong pole, and went steadily, in splits of :12 2/5, :12, and :12 1/5. He seemed to be handling the track better this time, and was much smoother, with the rider asking him for more. He wasn't as strong through the stretch as Fantastic Light, but still completed the five furlongs in a solid 1:01. Assistant trainer Tom Albertrani, on the pony, caught him in 1:00 2/5. He also didn't gallop out as strong as his stablemate, but wasn't being asked to.

Many people feel Sakhee's action is more suited to the turf, and we agree. He does have a higher kick and doesn't extend himself with the same authority as Fantastic Light. However, Dubai Millenium also had more of a grass stride, yet still looked like a super horse in the Dubai World Cup. In that race, his action was high, and he was bad with his lead changes, but he still drew off to win by 6 lengths. There is no doubt, running in the Classic is more of a risk, especially with the Turf there for the taking. But Godolphin aspires for higher things than most stables, and with immortality staring in Sakhee's face, it wouldn't surprise us if they decide to run both horses in the Classic. All we know is that the connections of horses in the Turf certainly are hoping Sakhee stays as far away from them as possible. So, do they play it safe or lay it all on the line? Stay tuned tomorrow.

Over at Laurel, Include worked a half in :47 2/5, with Kerwin Clark aboard. "He was just breezing," trainer Bud Delp said. "The clockers got his last quarter in :23 2/5. It was a perfect work, and he didn't need to do any more. He'll leave at 8 a.m. (Wednesday), and I think you'll like what you see. I'll probably gallop him a mile on Thursday, then a little longer on Friday. I might do a little something with him Saturday."

Another Classic horse on the work tab Tuesday was Guided Tour, who breezed a half in :50 at Churchill Downs with regular rider Larry Melancon aboard. At Woodbine, A Fleets Dancer breezed an easy five furlongs in 1:04 1/5, described as an "open gallop breeze" by trainer Roger Attfield. Goodwood Handicap winner Freedom Crest was out for a 1 3/8-mile gallop this morning. Trainer Richard Baltas said the gelding probably will have a quarter-mile blowout on Friday morning.

Tiznow had another good morning Tuesday, although he did get a bit rambunctious with the pony at one point on the turn. "These are the best two days I've seen him have in a long time," trainer Jay Robbins said. Robbins had contemplated giving the colt a shot of vodka before going out in the morning after his antics on Sunday, but all the liquor stores were closed. After seeing how much improved Tiznow has been the past two days, Robbins has scrapped that idea, which he says is an old trainer's trick to settle horses down. "Now that he's doing better, he doesn't need it," Robbins said.

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