Godolphin greats: Fantastic Light, the original globetrotter
Fantastic Light was one of Godolphin’s original globetrotters, racing in seven countries and winning G1 contests in five. As a sire, he also travelled the world, standing in three continents, siring 2,000 winners, before retirement beckoned.
As European Horse of the Year and Champion older horse in both Europe and the US, plus dual winner of the Emirates World Series Racing Championship, he won six contests at the highest level, a figure yet to be bettered by any other Godolphin runner.
Fantastic Light, foaled on 13 February, 1996, was bred by Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum’s Gainsborough Farm in the United States in whose colours he raced at two and three, and on his first start at four, when trained by Michael Stoute.
He broke his maiden on debut at Sandown in August 1998, with his victory coming as something of a surprise to his connections. Suddenly picking up, he took up the running inside the final furlong to win going away from the well-fancied Sicnee, who was wearing the first colours of Gainsborough Stud.
He followed up with another win later that month at the same course, this time over a mile.
Fantastic Light reappeared at three to win the G3 Classic Trial Stakes, once again at Sandown, in April 1999.
After failing to sparkle in the Lingfield Derby Trial, he headed to Royal Ascot where he was beaten just a head in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.
That year, he added two Stakes wins to his record, in the G2 Great Voltigeur at York, and the Arc Trial at Newbury, where he beat the Derby winner High-Rise.
Returning as a four-year-old in 2000, he opened his campaign with a three-length win in the Dubai Sheema Classic (now a G1 contest), after which he was transferred to Godolphin and the care of Saeed bin Suroor.
After placing in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July, his next win did not come until September of that year.
At Belmont Park, on the outskirts of New York City, he took the Man O’War Stakes, named after the great racehorse, and previously won by another legend – Secretariat.
The next stop on Fantastic Light’s ‘world tour’ was Japan, where he finished third in the prestigious G1 Japan Cup.
Then it was off to Hong Kong, where he was victorious in the G1 Hong Kong Cup, one of the feature races of their entire season.
2001 started with an attempt to record back-to-back wins in the Dubai Sheema Classic, and Fantastic Light came agonisingly close, beaten on the line by Japanese raider Stay Gold.
Returning to Europe, he recorded a G1 double in quick succession. First in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, he bettered Golden Snake far more easily than the neck margin would suggest.
He then headed back to Royal Ascot, where he went one better than the previous year to win the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (also now upgraded to G1 level).
Touted as ‘the race of the week’, Fantastic Light demonstrated his superb turn of foot not once, but twice as he had to overcome traffic problems two furlongs from home, before surging clear to win by two and a half lengths.
In July 2001, Fantastic Light returned to Ascot for the G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes – and undoubtedly the stiffest test of his racing career yet as he sought to improve on his place the year before.
For the first time, he was to meet the undefeated dual Derby winner and a horse whose name is now synonymous with racing excellence, Galileo.
Fantastic Light could only manage second that day, but as reported in the post-race analysis, he ‘ran his heart out’ and was the only runner to lay down a serious challenge to Galileo. Roll on September, and the rematch…
That race was, quite rightly, the most keenly anticipated renewal of the G1 Irish Champion Stakes and has since been named by Timeform as one of the iconic races of the 2000s. A true battle of the heavyweights.
Anyone lucky enough to watch on the day will tell you why. While the early stages of the race were dictated, as planned, by each horse’s pacemaker, it was once they entered the home straight that the battle truly began.
Fantastic Light and Galileo raced almost eyeball to eyeball for the final two furlongs, but Fantastic Light was not to be beaten, prevailing by a head in the most thrilling of finishes. The Racing Post described it as, “A truly heroic battle that deserves to linger in the memory as a magnificent spectacle between two outstanding racehorses.”
That was to be their last duel, as while both headed to the US for the Breeders’ Cup, Galileo had an unsuccessful tilt at the Classic, while Fantastic Light signed off a truly remarkable racing career in fitting style.
The G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Belmont Park was the distinguished setting for his swansong and he could not have played his part better. Still cruising as the field turned for home, Fantastic Light kicked clear and even the fast-finishing Milan could only get to within three quarters of a length. His time of 2:24.2 was a course record.
Fantastic Light then retired to stud, initially standing at Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket.
In a stud career reminiscent of his globetrotting racing exploits, he stood as a Darley stallion in the UK, Japan and in Australia. While he could not quite replicate his racing prowess as a sire, he was nonetheless responsible for the winners of more than 2,000 races.
He has also enjoyed success as a broodmare sire, including his Australian grandson Yes Yes Yes, winner of the 2019 running of The Everest at Randwick. In Europe, his daughter Diamantgottin produced Diamanta, last year’s G1 German Oaks winner.
Fantastic Light retired from stud duties in 2011.
Liam O’Rourke, Director of Studs, Stallions & Breeding, said, “Fantastic Light was a magnificent flagbearer throughout his racing career, winning six G1 contests, a total that no other Godolphin horse has yet beaten.
“He continues to enjoy his retirement at Dalham Hall Stud, where he lives on the stallion yard. He enjoys being turned out in the paddock each day and still looks remarkably well at the age of 24.”
And it is fitting that after such a globetrotting career, Fantastic Light has returned to the home of racing, where he now lives at Dalham Hall Stud alongside some of the current flagbearers of the Darley roster including Dubawi, Golden Horn and Too Darn Hot.