Racing: Fantasy defies generation gap: Hannon's filly shows the way to her elders and sets a new benchmark of brilliance

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The Independent Online
LYRIC FANTASY restructured the conventions of sprinting here yesterday when becoming the first two-year-old filly to win the Nunthorpe Stakes. Michael Roberts, her jockey, may have felt 'a bit lost, a bit tiny' in the swirl of older toughs down at the start, but it was the youth and combustive energy of this tiny runner that prevailed over age, height and weight.

Only four members of the Lyric Fantasy generation (all colts) have taken this five-furlong rush and the last of those victories was way back in 1956. If you had your memory cleansed of all form and were asked to find the winner of yesterday's race from a paddock inspection alone, Lyric Fantasy would have been plum last on the list. Nadia Comaneci among wrestlers might be your first thought.

Early in the race that impression seemed about right. Lyric Fantasy broke like a hare among canines, but contrary to dog track norms was unable to establish the kind of authoritative lead she usually grabs against her own kind. That scampering action almost betrayed distress, yet by the mid-point of York's straight and flat home stretch the approaching dot was beginning to swell in the crowd, and little Lyric Fantasy was starting to suck them in.

Mr Brooks and the Canadian horse, Diamonds Galore, gave chase but the power Lyric Fantasy somehow summons from that pony club body was propelling her away from the early mobbing. Roberts said he had calculated that it would be daft to 'compete with older, more experienced horses' through the first couple of furlongs, and that Lyric Fantasy 'has always come good half-way through her races'.

Five outings, five victories. The July Cup winner beaten. A course record for two-year-olds. History made. It is some scroll for a filly bought for 3,300gns as a foal before being resold for just 12,500gns as a yearling. No doubt the second vendor was pleased with their profit. How do they feel now?

It was impossible not to dwell on these issues of buying and selling. Richard Hannon, Lyric Fantasy's trainer, won the first three races here yesterday with horses who cost a combined total of pounds 35,000 (Niche, in the Lowther Stakes, was the other big success). Contrast that with the case of Map Of Stars, a dollars 400,000 yearling heavily backed for his debut in the Convivial Stakes but defeated by Hannon's 14,000-guinea colt, Revelation.

Which is what the whole thing is. Scouring the lower sections of the bloodstock industry's produce will not, of course, guarantee sucess by itself. You need eyes like Hannon's, and a vantage point nearer the tail than the mouth. Asked to explain the source of Lyric Fantasy's strength, Hannon said: 'You've just got to walk behind her to see that,' and indeed she does look like a composite of a Derby winner's posterior and feminine, chocolate box front.

'I can't believe she's just a two-year-old,' Roberts said, and in that he is not alone. If you had to query the merit of this achievement it would be by pointing out that this year's leading sprinters belong far below the vintage shelf, though to pursue the argument beyond a couple of sentences would make you some kind of cynic.

For Roberts the completion of this high-speed mission has brought more than just historical stature and another lump of prize-money. Although his weight when he arrived in this country was 7st 10lbs he has allowed it to rise to above 8st, 'a more comfortable' figure which has increased his reserves of stamina.

To ride Lyric Fantasy at 7st 8lb (1lb overweight) the country's leading jockey has been surviving on virtually no food, and was cautious about gorging himself last night lest it made him sick. He also admits to have been feeling 'miserable' with pain in his back from a fall on the gallops, and has felt the pull each time he has left the stalls in recent days.

The question Roberts will have asked himself over his steak last night is how long Lyric Fantasy can last. That she possesses precocious brilliance is beyond dispute, but as the successes accumulate and equine adulthood begins to set in, Hannon is imagining challenges beyond the touch-paper discipline of sprinting.

Lord Carnarvon, owner of both Lyric Fantasy and Niche, covets the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp on Arc day. Hannon believes a graduation to six-furlong races 'shouldn't be a problem' and does not object to questions about next year's 1,000 Guineas, for which Ladbrokes are quoting her at 14-1. Stand by for a rush of anticipation.

Luca Cumani's filly Cunning gained an easy six-length victory in the listed Galtres Stakes yesterday and now appears to have a fine opportunity of winning the valuable Krug Trophy at next month's Festival of British Racing. Cunning has been given 7st 12lb in the Ascot race, which Cumani won four years ago with Casey.

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