Galileo: A Force Majeure


Galileo | Emma Berry


“The lads had him as a king before he came here.”

So said Aidan O'Brien back in April when reflecting on Galileo's Classic season of 2001. Pedigree and physique were aligned and soon the third 'p', performance, would complete the holy trinity of the Thoroughbred. 

Two decades on and Galileo has not only rewritten the record books but, in doing so, has surpassed his own remarkable sire Sadler's Wells, who in turn was the most influential son of Northern Dancer. And much in the way that those names are so entwined with the folklore of Vincent O'Brien's tenure at Ballydoyle, so will Galileo forever be linked with that outstanding trainer's successor and namesake. For not only did Aidan O'Brien mastermind Galileo's own racing career but he has been responsible for more than half of his 92 Group or Grade 1 winners, and four of his five Derby winners. That record is already expanding at pace through the offspring of those alumni.

As Kelsey Riley has already outlined, Galileo was born to be great: the perfect example of breeding the best to the best. But no matter how perfect the genetic composition of the father, it does not guarantee that similar talent will will be bestowed upon his offspring. When Galileo retired to stud, not even the boldest forecaster could have predicted the colossal impact he would have on the breed in the ensuing two decades. 

Unusually at this stage of the season after the majority of the Classics have been contested, he is not in his customary position at the head of the table. There are still many races to be run in 2021, and it would be folly to count him out at the halfway house, but sooner or later, whether this year or in the future, the baton will be passed. Presently, the stallion most obviously in line to receive that is, appropriately, Galileo's defining masterpiece: Frankel. In a season which has seen his own growing stallion reputation soar to new heights, Frankel has sired his first Derby winner and first Irish Derby winner, while Snow Lantern's victory in Friday's Falmouth S. saw her become Frankel's 17th Group/Grade 1 winner in six different countries, and his fifth in this year alone.

Galileo's daughters Empress Josephine (Ire) and Joan Of Arc (Ire) ensured that his name appeared close up in the pedigrees of at least two of the European Classic winners so far this year, taking the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Prix de Diane respectively. But he is never that far away these days. In fact, Mother Earth (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) and Coeursamba (Fr) (The Wow Signal {Ire}) are the only two Classic winners in Europe in 2021 to be free of Galileo's blood.

He features as the broodmare sire of dual French Classic and Coral-Eclipse winner St Mark's Basilica (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}), who currently heads the world rankings, and of the Oaks winner Snowfall (Jpn). Galileo jumps back another generation in arguably the second-best 3-year-old colt of this year and is the paternal great grandsire of 2000 Guineas and St James's Palace S. winner Poetic Flare (Ire) (Dawn Approach {Ire}). His influence is greater still when it comes to that colt's stable-mate and conqueror in the Irish 2000 Guineas, Mac Swiney (Ire), who is inbred 2×3 to Galileo through his sons New Approach (Ire) and Teofilo (Ire).

When Serpentine (Ire) struck at Epsom in 2020, Galileo became the most successful Derby sire of all time, and two of his grandsons, Masar (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}) and Adayar (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), have now also claimed the blue riband.

In fact, 20 of Galileo's sons have now sired at least one Group 1 winner of their own. The Classic winners Australia (GB) and Gleneagles (Ire) currently occupy spots in the list of top 20 sires in Europe. Teofilo (Ire), the most successful of his sons by number of Group 1 winners with 21 to his credit, has supplied one of the top performers of the season in Gold Cup winner Subjectivist (GB).

But that's just 2021, in a season which is still full of running. When Galileo's life ended on Saturday morning after 23 years, he had already been champion sire for more than half of that time. At Coolmore alone, his stallion sons include Australia, Churchill (Ire), Circus Maximus (Ire), Gleneagles, Gustav Klimt (Ire), Highland Reel (Ire) and The Gurkha (Ire), while under the National Hunt banner stands Capri (Ire), Idaho (Ire), Soldier Of Fortune (Ire), Kew Gardens (Ire), Mahler (Ire) and Order Of St George (Ire). 

Sons standing elsewhere include of course Juddmonte's superstar Frankel, and his former racecourse rival Nathaniel (Ire), who, during his tenure at Newsells Park Stud has notched his own place in the bloodstock annals, particularly as the sire of another Juddmonte luminary, Enable (GB). That great mare's two victories in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe followed that of Found (Ire), who led home the aforementioned Highland Reel and Order Of St George for a memorable Galileo trifecta, and they were followed in 2019 by Galileo's son Waldgeist (GB), who now stands at Ballylinch Stud. For good measure, Galileo is also the broodmare sire of the 2020 winner, Sottsass (Fr), one of three Coolmore stallions for which he fills this role, along with St Mark's Basilica's half-brother Magna Grecia (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) and Saxon Warrior (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}).

While debate often swirls around the efficacy of a particular horse as a sire of sires, the focus on the male line is only ever half the story. The influence of mares in the growing legacy of Galileo must not be overlooked: both in the quality of partner he has been sent from the outset, and the terrific record of his daughters, both on the track and as broodmares.

For all that Galileo's scope as a sire is illustrated by the fact that, along with his great Derby record, he has sired three winners of the 2000 Guineas, his daughters have been responsible for four 2000 Guineas winners to date: Night Of Thunder (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), Galileo Gold (Ire) (Paco Boy {Ire}), and the aforementioned Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia. 

Indeed, his first Classic winner Nightime (Ire), heroine of the Irish 1000 Guineas of 2006, the year in which Galileo's son Sixties Icon (GB) won the St Leger, is now the dam of the top-rated horse in the world in 2020, Ghaiyyath (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}).

He may currently be narrowly behind Frankel in the European sires' table, but Galileo is way out in front in the broodmare sires' list. This is a sphere in which his dominance will be felt for years to come, with his current tally of 38 Group 1 winners as a damsire likely to increase even before this season is out.

As previously stated, however, Galileo is far from being ruled out of yet another sires' championship, which would put him just one behind the record of Sadler's Wells.

We can expect to see some classy juveniles unleashed as the season progresses, for among his 102 named foals of 2019 are a full-sister to Found named Champagne (Ire), and Denver (Ire), a brother to Magical (Ire). The list of his progeny yet to race who are either out of Group 1 winners or related to them runs to pages, but to highlight a few, we can also look forward to Snow Lantern's three-parts-brother First Emperor (GB), Goldikova's 2-year-old son Lehman (GB) and a filly out of Tepin named Swirl (Ire).

Galileo's death, while immensely lamentable, has not come as a shock. It is well known that as the survivor of colic surgery his every move has been micro-managed by the excellent team in the Coolmore stallion yard who will mourn him most.

For those of us who were not in daily contact with the stallion whose equable temperament was doubtless a vital component of his success on the track and at stud, his loss will not be so keenly felt simply because his name will loom large in the pedigrees of champions for generations to come. 

At 23, Galileo has compiled a formidable record, aided by a ceaseless supply of some of the best mares in the world, that will only be enhanced in the seasons ahead. He has not, as in the case of some, done it the hard way, but he has done it the right way. A force majeure in his lifetime, that will not change simply because he has drawn his last breath.


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