Champion Fantastic Light Shines Around the World
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2002 3:03 PM
Posted: Monday, February 18, 2002 9:24 PM
Long before Fantastic Light ever stepped on a racetrack, the employees of Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum's Gainsborough Farm in Kentucky knew that the son of Rahy was going to be special. Watching him romp in the pasture with other yearlings, they were impressed by his fiery spirit and desire to dominate.
"He was always tough," said Allen Kershaw, Gainsborough's vice president and general manager. "When they were running, he always had to be in front. When he reared up, he was the one that nobody wanted to mess with."
Fantastic Light won two of his three races in England as a juvenile in 1998. Over the next two seasons, he collected a championship in Dubai and an Emirates World Series title. He also scored victories in the Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) and the Man o' War Stakes (gr. IT), finished third in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I), and became a multiple group winner in England.
But in 2001, Fantastic Light ascended to a new level as a competitor. Carrying the royal blue silks of Godolphin, he thrilled racing fans in his exciting battles against the talented Galileo and earned worldwide acclaim for his impressive performance in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. He won four of his six races, was second in the other two, and earned $3,634,859.
The season began in Dubai, where Fantastic Light was second, beaten only a nose while trying to win the Sheema Classic (UAE-II) for the second consecutive year. Next he journeyed to Europe, capturing the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-I) by a neck over Golden Snake and the Prince of Wales's Stakes (Eng-I) by 2 1/2 lengths. Both times, Fantastic Light's beaten rivals included 2000 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Kalanisi.
The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I) in July pitted Fantastic Light against the formidable Galileo for the first time. Fantastic Light mounted a late challenge, wiping out Galileo's big lead and pulling alongside the younger runner with a furlong left to go. But Galileo responded immediately to jockey Michael Kinane's whip, drawing clear to win by two lengths
The two tangled again in September, and Fantastic Light got his revenge, taking the Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) by a head. On the turn for home, Fantastic Light drove toward the front on the inside while Galileo launched his bid three wide. For the last three-eighths of a mile, they slugged it out, but Fantastic Light's final punch was just a little bit stronger that day.
It was widely assumed that Fantastic Light and Galileo would meet again in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) in October. Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford called Fantastic Light "our Classic horse." And after he arrived in New York, many people thought that Fantastic Light handled Belmont Park's dirt better than his stablemate, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Sakhee. But three days before the World Thoroughbred Championships, the Maktoum brothers of Dubai announced that Fantastic Light would run in the Breeders' Cup Turf, where he had finished an undistinguished fifth in 2000, and Sakhee would go in the Classic.
The decision was debated hotly on the backstretch and by the press, but the criticism all died out after Fantastic Light held off the hard-charging Milan by three-quarters of a length, streaking through the 1 1/2 miles in course record time of 2:24.36. Immediately afterward, Sakhee just missed winning the Classic, capping off Godolphin's most successful afternoon of Breeders' Cup racing ever. The stable also recorded a one-two finish with Tempera and Imperial Gesture in the Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).
Fantastic Light, winner of a second consecutive Emirates World Series crown, was retired to Sheikh Mohammed's Dalham Hall Stud in England. He received the 2001 Cartier Award as Europe's Horse of the Year.
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