07/27/2001 11:00PM

King George victory makes Galileo No. 1

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In a race matching Europe's best 3-year-old against its premier older horse, the 3-year-old Galileo establish himself as the undisputed king of the continent. The undefeated Galileo did it by beating 5-year-old Fantastic Light by two lengths in the Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes Saturday at Ascot.

Galileo's performance, under jockey Mickey Kinane, was more impressive than his margin of victory may imply. He swept to the lead straightening for home, while Fantastic Light, who had been pushed back and forced outside, was making a wide move from ninth on the turn under Frankie Dettori. Fantastic Light, closing ground fast, took second place in midstretch, and then drew about even with Galileo in what looked like a winning move about 400 yards from the wire.

But then just as quickly, Galileo shifted into a faster gear and drew away. Galileo ran the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:27.71, only .76 off the record set by Stanerra in 1983. Galileo went off at 1-2 and Fantastic Light was 7-2.

"Great horses come along very seldom and I think this is a great horse," said Kinane, who gained an injunction on Friday to postpone a two-day suspension, which enabled him to ride Galileo. "He's always in control of a race because he always travels so well. There are few horses with so many strengths to play to."

Said trainer Aidan O'Brien, "I was really impressed by the way he traveled and took all the gaps. You can go anywhere with him in a race."

A son of Sadler's Wells, out of 1993 Arc de Triomphe winner Urban Sea, Galileo improved his lifetime record to 6 for 6. Michael Tabor, who owns Galileo in partnership with Susan Magnier, called the colt, "the ultimate horse with the ultimate pedigree."

This might have been the last time Galileo will run 1 1/2 miles. He runs next in the Irish Champion Stakes at 1 1/4 miles at Leopardstown Sept. 8, and then probably in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at a mile at Ascot three weeks later. The ultimate goal for Galileo is the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park in the fall.