Light switch to Turf thwarts Galileo duel

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The Independent Online

They can tear down the posters advertising the third and definitive encounter between Galileo and Fantastic Light. The rubber match, as they have called it here at Belmont, will now never happen.

In what seemed a decision of great perversity, it was announced yesterday that Fantastic Light would not, as widely assumed, be running in the Classic at Breeders' Cup XVIII on Saturday. The World Series champion is instead committed to the Turf, with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner, Sakhee, now the Godolphin warrior in the meeting's climax.

The arrangements came after Fantastic Light had posted his sharpest piece of activity on the main track (dirt track) since arriving in America on Tuesday morning. Less than 24 hours later came the message he would be running on turf.

Sakhee's performance on the dirt last Friday was, according to one workwatcher, "horrid". He was 12 lengths down on what a normal horses could be expected to achieve. He worked better on Tuesday, but not sufficiently well to dispel the notion that he is true to his genes and a colt who could be expected to perform better on grass than artificial surfaces. Fantastic Light, on the other hand, can be measured as a typical American-bred.

The five-year-old's record over a mile and a quarter appears to be superior to his form over 12 furlongs. He last won over the longer distance in the Dubai Sheema Classic last March. Twelve months ago, Fantastic Light was fifth in the Turf, beaten two lengths by Kalanisi after a desperate run up the straight. A place in front of him that day was Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum's Mutaman, who reopposes now.

We can now determine that Frankie Dettori's influence on major decisions within Godolphin is somewhere between nil and zero. As he addressed us outside barn No6 on Tuesday, the Italian detailed his belief that Sakhee should run in the Turf and Fantastic Light in the Classic. The reverse may have happened, but at least Dettori has avoided the torment of both colts running in the same contest. "I was a bit surprised by the decision, but it's great," the jockey said yesterday. "They are both good horses and I'm glad they won't be killing each other off. At least we have got two shots at two big races.

"Fantastic Light is a good horse. Whatever beats him wins. He's straightforward. He's automatic. Sakhee is a great horse, he's unbeaten this year."

All of Godolphin's boys on the ground seemed a little bewildered. There must have been a general distortion on the field telephone from America. By the time the message got back from the front to the Emirates, the names of the horses appear to have been transposed.

Saeed Bin Suroor was able, however, to put a positive spin on events. "Sheikh Hamdan took the decision to run Sakhee on the dirt," the trainer said. "After yesterday I can see the horse is really focussed on his work. He's a professional horse. We need to do something new. To see the Arc winner run in and win the Classic would be great. Sakhee has a good turn of foot and a mile and a quarter is the best distance for him. I've a feeling he will run a big race.

"Fantastic Light has run all his races on turf and we'd like to keep him there. We know exactly what he can do. They have the class to run in either race."

Bobby Frankel, the trainer of the likely favourite in the Classic, Aptitude, was almost as surprised as he was delighted. The trainer has been telling all on the backstretch that he thought Galileo and Sakhee were about as dangerous as a basketful of kittens in the big race. Fantastic Light was his worry.

Another American, the jockey Jerry Bailey, added: "My guess would have been that they would have done the exact opposite, but they are very successful and don't get much wrong. Going by the breeding I thought Fantastic Light would lend himself to dirt better than any other European horse, better than Galileo."

Galileo drew the No.5 box for the Classic in the post position draw yesterday morning and will emerge next to Sakhee from a stall one higher.

The worst news concerned Aidan O'Brien's Mozart, who was allotted a wide draw, stall 11, in the Sprint. He will need to break better than he ever has done and then run faster than he ever has done. And that is just to get into a challenging position.