Racing: Brooks to enter Fantasy realm

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The Independent Online
A COLD, an aching back, a starvation diet. These have been Michael Roberts's obstacles this week as he prepared for the ride on Lyric Fantasy in today's Nunthorpe Stakes at York. It has left him looking shrunken and drawn, but the combative quality that has driven him clear of Pat Eddery in the jockeys' championship is still in place. 'If she's right she'll win,' he said yesterday.

No two-year-old filly has won the North's foremost sprint, but then nothing of Lyric Fantasy's quality has ever tried. If you think a nipper like Roberts's mount has no place in such an adult world, remember that Paris House came within a dog's hair of beating Sheikh Albadou in this race last year, and few would place him in Lyric Fantasy's league.

Roberts calls her 'a freak', and the judgement applies not only to her pace but her purchase price, size and maturity. At little over 14 hands high, the average jump jockey could see over Lyric Fantasy's back without raising his heels off the ground. What still perplexes and pleases the Richard Hannon stable is that far from possessing an ephemeral burst of speed which leaves the jockey praying for the post to arrive, Lyric Fantasy becomes stronger the further she goes.

Hence the four eye-straining victories. Hence her achievement in becoming the first two-year-old to break a minute at Royal Ascot. The best illustration of Lyric Fantasy's impact this season is that she will start odds-on against the July Cup winner, Mr Brooks (Hannon's other runner), and the Canadian challenger, Diamonds Galore, who will attempt to set the pace.

Roberts rejects the theory that this is a comparatively weak race. 'Mr Brooks looked a good horse at Newmarket,' he said, but only, you sense, to pay due respect to his opponents and temper his obvious confidence with caution. Lyric Fantasy will probably win, but Mr Brooks (3.10) still stands out as a gift of an each-way bet.

Cheap, in this money-crazed game, is the only way to describe Lyric Fantasy, who cost 12,500gns as a yearling. Today's second most important race ought to fall to a filly who was bought at secondhand car prices - 2,000gns - if Toocando (2.35) can reproduce her normal form. We say that to buy a racehorse is insane, but here at least are two good reasons to try madness for size.

Hannon may mount a two- pronged challenge on Sunday's Group One Prix Morny at Deauville with Pips Pride, his Phoenix Stakes winner, and Port Lucaya.