02/19/2002 12:00AM

Fantastic Light the world's best

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Fantastic Light was not only the Eclipse Award winner as outstanding turf male, he was the world's top turf horse in 2001.

Stakes wins in three countries, including the Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park on Oct. 27, were enough to convince voters that the Godolphin-owned Fantastic Light was best.

But Fantastic Light's Breeders' Cup Turf win nearly did not happen. His appearance in that race was a surprising last-minute decision by the Maktoum family, which operates Godolphin.

In the buildup to the Breeders' Cup, Sahkee, the winner of the Arc de Triomphe, was expected to start in the Turf for Godolphin, while Fantastic Light was being pointed to the Classic. On the day of entries, Godolphin switched the assignments.

By nightfall on Breeders' Cup Day, the Eclipse Award for turf male was all but a certainty for Fantastic Light.

A 5-year-old in 2001, Fantastic Light won 4 of 6 starts and $2,633,444 under the direction of trainer Saeed bin Suroor. In addition, he won a $1 million bonus for being the point leader in the Emirates World Series.

Fantastic Light opened his 2001 campaign with a nose loss in the $2 million Dubai Sheema Classic on the Dubai World Cup undercard on March 24. Later in the spring, he was sent to Godolphin's stable at Newmarket, England, to launch a spring and summer campaign.

Fantastic Light scored the seventh stakes win of his career in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh in Ireland on May 27. Among those he defeated was Kalinisi, the 2000 champion turf male and Breeders' Cup Turf winner.

A month later in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, Fantastic Light again beat Kalanisi, by a convincing 2 1/2 lengths.

In late summer, Fantastic Light and Galileo, the winner of the English and Irish derbies, provided European racing fans with two thrilling performances. Galileo beat Fantastic Light by two lengths in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on July 28. The result was reversed in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, Ireland, on Sept. 8 when Fantastic Light outgamed Galileo by a head.

The Breeders' Cup Classic was supposed to have been the rubber match between Fantastic Light and Galileo, but the showdown was nixed when Godolphin chose to start Fantastic Light in the Turf.

Sent off as the favorite, he was confidently ridden by Frankie Dettori, who had Fantastic Light stalk the pace for the first 1 1/4 miles of the 1 1/2-mile race before taking command. Fantastic Light won by three-quarters of a length over Milan.

The Breeders' Cup Turf was Fantastic Light's final start. A Kentucky-bred, he is now at stud in England.