The best ever Irish Champion Stakes. Fantastic Light v Galileo

The best ever Irish Champion Stakes. Fantastic Light v Galileo

I was pleased to hear Frankie Dettori say that the 2001 Irish Champion Stakes which I attended was the most exciting race finish he has been involved in. It’s certainly the most thrilling race finish I have witnessed in person.

Television was trying to encourage Dettori into saying the much more recent finish between Enable and Crystal Ocean at Ascot was Dettori’s most exciting win in the saddle. The interviewer so wanted him to say that it was. Dettori was diplomatic and said that it was close to being as exciting as the Irish Champion Stakes that saw his Fantastic Light beat the great Galileo.

Nineteen years on, I heard that race commentary again and the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention. Just as they did that September 2001 day at Leopardstown. It’s worth recalling that I had flown to Dublin just three days before the world changed forever. While the deluded and brainwashed were planning to murder thousands of innocent people, I was enjoying the building atmosphere among the most genuine racing crowd to be found anywhere in the world. The Irish.

I’ve never seen a race finish like it before or since. A shiver went down my spine. The roar of the 17.000 crowd was louder than anything I’ve heard at the Cheltenham Festival.

I’m not sure average quality videos of that 2001 classic does justice to the finish of the race. Although the cheers of the crowd do bring back fond memories for me. It’s one of those races where you had to be there to fully appreciate the excitement. Television can never do justice to those moments.

I was there. Frankie Detttori was there. Mick Kinane was there. The day Fantastic Light beat Galileo in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Fantastic Light won by a head, ensuring that the Godolphin camp exacted revenge upon team Coolmore. A few weeks earlier, at Ascot in July, Galileo had beaten Fantastic Light by two lengths in the King George Stakes.

The Leopardstown crowd wanted to witness a repeat victory for the much loved, home bred Galileo. It wasn’t in the script that Fantastic Light would beat the odds on favourite. Galileo arrived at Leopardstown unbeaten from six outings. He wouldn’t win again.

Neither horse ran again in the UK or Ireland. Fantastic Light raced once more, winning the prestigious Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Belmont Park in America, so proving the Irish Champion Stakes victory was no fluke. On the same day, on the same track, Galileo flopped in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, finishing way down the field in sixth place.

Both horses were retired to stud. I think it’s safe to say that Galileo has proved himself to be more of a winner at stud than Fantastic Light. His progeny continue to win races on a regular basis. Galileo will forever be classed as a great.

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