07/29/2001 11:00PM

Proof positive: Galileo is Europe's best


On his face he has a white blaze in the shape of an arrow, as if he is pointing himself ever forward toward greater and greater feats of equine glory.

Galileo proved conclusively on Saturday that he is Europe's best at 1 1/2 miles with a resounding triumph in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot. He handed Europe's best older horse, Fantastic Light, a two-length thumping at odds of 1-2 while recording the third fastest time, 2:27.71, in the 51-year history of the race.

Still undefeated after six starts - including wins in both the Epsom and Irish Derbies - Galileo will now get a brief rest before beginning preparations for the Breeders' Cup Classic, for which Coral Eurobet quote him as 9-4 second favorite behind Point Given at 2-1.

First up will be a rematch with Fantastic Light in the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Sept. 8. That will be followed by a further drop in distance to a mile for a return to Ascot in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Sept. 29. This is the same path that was followed last year by Galileo's former stablemate Giant's Causeway.

Aidan O'Brien remains firmly convinced that Galileo's best distance lies somewhere in the one- to 1 1/4-mile range. That is why he thinks Galileo will have an easier time of it when he takes on Fantastic Light at 1 1/4 miles, even though the weight-for-age he will receive on the scale will have dropped to seven pounds from the 12 he got in the King George.

European bloodstock agents estimate that Galileo is now worth as much as 30 million pounds ($42.6 million). By Sadler's Wells out of the 1993 Arc winner Urban Sea, Galileo was described by co-owner Michael Tabor as "the ultimate horse with the ultimate pedigree." He has already earned $2,058,632 in a career that began only nine months ago.

Hightori's third-place finish in the King George will be the cause of a great deal of fallout. Trainer Philippe Demercastel once again expressed his dissatisfaction with the waiting tactics employed by Gerald Mosse, who rode Hightori similarly when he finished third behind Fantastic Light in the Prince of Wales's Stakes.

Mosse may now lose the ride on Hightori, who, although coming up short in the King George, proved he could stay 12 furlongs. As a result, Demercastel has scrapped plans to send him to the Arlington Million and point for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe instead.