09/07/2001 11:00PM

Fantastic Light hands Galileo first defeat

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Fantastic Light turned the tables on Galileo at Leopardstown on Saturday, winning the Irish Champion Stakes by a head to hand Galileo his first defeat. The finish was a reversal of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in July, when Galileo was a two-length victor over Fantastic Light.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Fantastic Light raced in third place, a length ahead of Galileo, through most of the 1 1/4-mile race. Ice Dancer, Galileo's stablemate, set the early pace, with Give the Slip, like Fantastic Light from the Godolphin stable, in second. Entering the stretch, Fantastic Light moved up to second place, with Galileo and jockey Michael Kinane right behind him as the early leaders flattened out.

Fantastic Light assumed the lead with three-sixteenths of a mile to go and was joined by Galileo with a furlong to go. With both riders urging their mounts on feverishly down the straightaway, Galileo, the odds-on favorite, had every chance to pass his rival, but Fantastic Light (2-1) showed a tenacity that would not be denied, winning in a final time of 2:01.80. It was another six lengths back to the third-place finisher, Bach.

Aidan O'Brien, who trains Galileo, said of the battle, "It was a superb event, and Galileo ran a great race for us. The winner was very good."

Of Dettori and winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor, O'Brien said, "The Godolphin boys certainly planned their tactics very well, and I don't think we got our's 100 percent right." In the King George, Dettori had Fantastic Light tracking Galileo rather than staying ahead of him.

The Group 1, $928,620 Irish Champion was the fifth leg in the Emirates World Series Championship, and the victory left Fantastic Light tied for the series lead with 18 points.

Both colts are nominated to the World Thourghbred Champion-

ships, and could meet again on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park.

Nuclear Debate takes Sprint Cup

Trainer John Hammond enjoyed his third victory in the Stanley Leisure Sprint Cup when Nuclear Debate was a three-length winner of the six-furlong race at Haydock Park, England, on Saturday.

Jockey Gerald Mosse kept Nuclear Debate near the back of the 12-horse field for the first half-mile as Mull of Kintyre and Minardi dueled for the early lead. Mosse then moved his mount up until he took the lead with a furlong to go. Mosse slapped Nuclear Debate (5-1) twice with the whip in the final going, and the horse pulled away, winning in a final time of 1:15.39 on the heavy going. Mount Abu was second, 3 3/4 lengths ahead of Monkston Point. Pipalong, the 7-2 favorite, ran seventh.