Despite slow early fractions of :50.94 and 1:16.14, Godolphin Racing's Fantastic Light closed from next-to-last under jockey Jerry Bailey to win the $500,000 Man o' War (gr. IT) by a length over Ela Athena as European shippers filled the exacta in Saturday's Belmont Park feature race. Once free of traffic in the stretch, Drama Critic rallied to finish third, a neck behind Ela Athena. John's Call, Gritty Sandie, Timboroa, Just Listen, and Aly's Alley completed the order of finish. Fantastic Light completed the 1 3/8 miles in 2:17.44 over firm turf.
"The slow pace really didn't hurt him much," said Bailey. "I decided to go outside down the backstretch and felt I had the field at his mercy the entire time. I finished up strongly, and I don't think this horse was wound up very tight for this race. He'll only get better."
Fantastic Light (Rahy--Jood, by Nijinsky II) was bred in Kentucky by Gainsborough Farm Inc. He earned $300,000 for the win to push his career earnings past the $2-million mark. The 4-year-old has now won seven of 15 career races, but the Man o' War marks his first in a group or grade I. Previous to the Man o' War, he earned wins in the Great Voltigeur Stakes (Eng-II), the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-III), and the Thresher Classic Trial (Eng-III).
"If there was a stronger pace, I think he would have had a stronger finish," said Tom Albertrani, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "We knew this horse was legitimate to bring over and would be very competitive. We'll run him in the Turf Classic (Invitational, gr. IT, Belmont Park, Oct. 7) next."
The odds-on favorite, Fantastic Light returned $3.30, $2.70, and $2.80. 35-1 Ela Athena paid $13.60 and $6.90 and completed the $52 exacta. Drama Critic (33-1) paid $8.10 to place. (Chart, Equibase