Updated on 09/15/2011 1:19PM

Turf: A new, improved Fantastic Light


ELMONT, N.Y. - Fantastic Light has changed remarkably in the year since he ran a close fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs.

Gone are the occasional poor performances, replaced by a consistent streak of first- and second-place finishes in several of Europe's top races over 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 miles.

That success was a pivotal reason why Fantastic Light was chosen to represent the Maktoum family's Godolphin Racing in Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park. In five starts this year, Fantastic Light has won three Group 1 stakes and earned more than $1.5 million, the highest earnings of any starter in the Turf.

"Fantastic Light is a professional horse," trainer Saeed bin Suroor said. "He's mentally focused on his races more this year than last year. He's a different horse. He looks to be a stronger horse."

Fantastic Light will be favored against a world-class field of 11 that includes nine stakes winners from throughout the United States as well as from Canada, England, and France.

A 5-year-old, Fantastic Light starts in the Breeders' Cup Turf following a gritty victory in the Irish Champion Stakes by a head over Galileo, who runs in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic. The Irish Champion was a reverse of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on July 28 and remains the highlight of Fantastic Light's 2001 campaign.

"I think it was his best race," Suroor said. "The important thing is to keep him close to the front. He likes a strong pace."

Fantastic Light is most effective as a stalker, and should be prominent behind expected front-runners With Anticipation and Timboroa, two stakes winners in Grade 1 turf races at Belmont Park this year. With Anticipation won the Man o' War Stakes over 1 3/8 miles on Sept. 9 by a comfortable 2 1/2 lengths, while Timboroa set a slow pace and had plenty left to prevail by three lengths in the Turf Classic on Sept. 29.

With Anticipation was hand-ridden to victory in the Man o' War Stakes, an outing that impressed trainer Jonathan Sheppard. "He's a tough horse to pass," Sheppard said.

Pat Day rides With Anticipation and is seeking his first Breeders' Cup Turf win since Theatrical in 1987.

"If someone said, 'What would be the prototype horse that Pat Day would be his best on?' it would be ours," Sheppard said. "Pat is a master of switching horses off and keeping something up his sleeve. I've seen him on horses when he's entering the stretch with the lead. He'll let a horse go by and still win."

A stalking trip should help Fantastic Light avoid the trouble that cost him at least one position in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Turf. Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Fantastic Light was beaten two lengths and was checked in the final sixteenth.

"He's a better horse this year," Dettori said. "Last year, he was very prominent, he just didn't get out."

Two horses that finished in front of him - runner-up Quiet Resolve and fourth-place finisher Mutamam - return this year, but have had remarkably different preparations. Quiet Resolve has one win in seven starts (the King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap at Woodbine) while Mutamam has won three of four starts, highlighted by a hard-fought win in the Grade 1 Canadian International on Sept. 30.

Quiet Resolve and Mutamam are stalkers. Farther back in the field, Hap, the runner-up in the Arlington Million, and Chorwon, a stakes winner at Kentucky Downs last month, will be waiting to launch a late rally.

Along with the other longshots, they must run the races of their lives to contend with Fantastic Light, Timboroa and With Anticipation. The two pacesetters have the ability to lead throughout, while Fantastic Light can join Daylami (1999) and Kalanisi (2000) as the third consecutive European shipper to win the Breeders' Cup Turf.