Updated on 09/15/2011 12:40PM

Galileo, Fantastic Light to battle at Ascot


As race names go, the $1.07 million King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes fairly drips with regality.

This year's edition, sponsored as it has been since 1953 by DeBeers Mining (thus the "Diamond" in the race name), will have no trouble living up to its exalted title at Ascot on Saturday.

In fact, the 51st running is likely to surpass the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as the best European 1 1/2-mile race of 2001.

The match of Europe's two best horses, Galileo and Fantastic Light, is one of those that racetrack administrators dream about. Ascot has had more than its share of great King Georges, as winners Daylami, Swain, Lammtarra, Generous, Nashwan, Dancing Brave, Shergar, The Minstrel, Dahlia, Mill Reef, and Nijinsky so persuasively attest. Either Galileo or Fantastic Light would fit snugly into that list, and although 18 were left in the King George at Monday's five-day entry stage and as many as 12 of those could answer the call to post, it is difficult to see past one of the two in the winner's circle.

The presence of Galileo is what should separate the King George from the Arc this year, as he will cut back to shorter distances after Saturday and so skip the Arc to prepare for his ultimate goal, the Breeders' Cup Classic.

One question lingers over the head of Galileo, but it is not of great concern. His rider, Michael Kinane, is appealing a two-day suspension that would keep him out of the King George, a matter likely to be decided by the Irish Turf Club on Friday. If Kinane loses, Galileo would probably be ridden by Johnny Murtagh, nothing for backers to worry about.

If someone is to beat either of the top two, there are some nice names from which to choose. Anabaa Blue has a license to improve off his French Derby victory. Mutafaweq and Storming Home are course and distance winners at the Group 2 level. Golden Snake is a four-time Group 1 winner who was just a neck behind Fantastic Light in the Tattersalls. And Mutamam, should he run, is improving with age.

Fantastic Light was due to have one fast work at Newmarket on Wednesday morning, while Galileo has been kept ticking along at Ballydoyle with strong gallops in Aidan O'Brien's belief that "he doesn't need much work."

The ground on Saturday will be good to firm. The expectations of the principals will be somewhere beyond the stratosphere.

Current King George odds from Ladbrokes: Galileo 1-2, Fantastic Light 5-2, Anabaa Blue 12-1, Morshdi 14-1, Golden Snake, Mutamam 16-1, Hightori 20-1, Storming Home 22-1, Mutafaweq 25-1.

Beginning Thursday, www.drf.com will have past performances for the King George, the first leg of the Emirates World Series Fantasy Challenge.