Godolphin Trio Departs For United States

The main body of the Godolphin forces departed Stansted Airport in England Friday morning for their journey to New York. After arriving at Belmont Park later in the afternoon, Fantastic Light, Sakhee, and Noverre will begin their 24-hour quarantine. They are expected to test the Belmont surface for the first time on Sunday.

The Godolphin starters in the World Thoroughbred Championships have been converging from all directions on Belmont Park, where the bulk of their horses have been stabled. From California come Breeders' Cup Juvenile starters Essence of Dubai and Ibn Al Haitham, who finished one-two in the recent Norfolk Stakes, and Juvenile Fillies starters Tempera and Imperial Gesture. The one representative from the Belmont string is Jerome Handicap winner Express Tour, who will be pre-entered in the Mile, along with Noverre.

But all eyes will be focused on Fantastic Light and Sakhee, who could establish themselves as the best dirt horse and best grass horse in the world with a victory in their respective races. As of now, however, no one knows which one will go where. Fantastic Light likely will pre-enter the Classic as his first preference, while Sakhee will have his first preference in the Turf. After that, trainer Saeed bin Suroor and assistant Tom Albertrani will watch both horses train on the dirt and assess the situation. But as of now, Fantastic Light, who has far superior dirt breeding, is their Classic horse, according to racing manager Simon Crisford. Because he came to the Godolphin barn in Dubai this past winter with some physical problems, Sakhee has had limited training over the dirt.

With many of America's top names out of the picture, the Classic could boil down to a rubber match between Fantastic Light and Irish superstar Galileo for world supremacy. Standing in their way will be Juddmonte Farms' vastly improved Aptitude, 10-length winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Galileo is not expected to be seen until two days before the race, when he and the other Aidan O'Brien-trained runners will make thir first appearance on the track.

Although Noverre was upset by his own pacesetter in the recent Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, he still will be one of the favorites in the Mile, and should make a powerful coupling with the towering Express Tour, even though the son of Tour d'Or has never run on turf.