Breed-Shaping Sire Galileo Dies

Galileo, 1998 – 2021 | Coolmore


Galileo (Ire) (Sadler's Wells-Urban Sea, by Miswaki), the brilliant winner of the Derby, Irish Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S. and revolutionary 12-time British and Irish champion sire, was euthanized on Saturday at Coolmore Stud at the age of 23 after battling a chronic, non-responsive, debilitating injury to the left fore foot.

Galileo is the sire of 92 worldwide Group 1 winners-more than any other stallion in history and with the latest poignantly coming on Saturday evening courtesy of Bolshoi Ballet (Ire) in the Belmont Derby-and he has arguably had a greater influence on the breed than any sire since his own grandsire Northern Dancer. Galileo has sired 338 stakes winners and 228 group winners, for earnings of over $285-million and counting.

Galileo's flagbearers have included Frankel (GB), who many consider the greatest racehorse of all time; the $10-million globetrotter Highland Reel (Ire); seven-time Group 1 winning-fillies Magical (Ire) and Minding (Ire); and a record five Derby winners, including the successful sire New Approach (Ire).

“It is a very sad day, but we all feel incredibly fortunate to have had Galileo here at Coolmore,” said Coolmore's John Magnier, who co-bred and raced Galileo and stood him at stud. “I would like to thank the dedicated people who looked after him so well all along the way. He was always a very special horse to us and he was the first Derby winner we had in Ballydoyle in the post M V O'Brien era. I would also like to thank Aidan and his team for the brilliant job they did with him. The effect he is having on the breed through his sons and daughters will be a lasting legacy and his phenomenal success really is unprecedented.”

Bred by David Tsui and Coolmore under the Orpendale banner, Galileo entered the world on Mar. 29, 1998 with a heavy burden of expectation on his shoulders, being impeccably bred as he was. By the Irish 2000 Guineas, Eclipse S. and Champion S. victor Sadler's Wells–who had just earned his sixth straight champion sire title in a run that would eventually extend to 13 consecutive and a record 14 overall–Galileo was the third foal out of Urban Sea, who was already famed as a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victress but who would go on to outdo herself as a broodmare. John Magnier's wife Susan is known for adorning Coolmore's bluebloods with the most discerning of names, and her choice for the Sadler's Wells/Urban Sea colt indicated the stratospheric hopes that they harbored for him: he was named in honour of the famed Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, whose discoveries revolutionized his field.

Galileo was placed into training with the then 31-year-old Aidan O'Brien during the fledgling trainer's fourth season at Ballydoyle, he having taken over from the legendary Vincent O'Brien in 1996. In an interview with the TDN's Emma Berry earlier this year, O'Brien recalled the aura surrounding Galileo in his early days.

“Unusually with him, before he came to Ballydoyle the world was thought of him and I suppose that was because he is out of an Arc winner and he's by Sadler's Wells,” the trainer said. “Sue named him Galileo very early.”

Galileo's debut was delayed by a cough plaguing the O'Brien yard that season, but he eventually made his keenly anticipated first trip to post at Leopardstown on Oct. 28, 2000 under the ownership of Sue Magnier, going off the even-money favourite under Mick Kinane and obliging with a 14-length victory over heavy ground.

Recalling what set Galileo apart from the many champions he has trained, and what star power he has imparted to his numerous high-class progeny, O'Brien said, “He didn't walk, he prowled. It was a very unusual thing with a horse. Horses usually come up to walk but when he used to walk, he would get down to walk. When you'd ask him to go forward the first thing that would go out and down was his head. Most horses when you ask them to go forward, up goes the head and they walk up, but he used to walk forward and walk out. His walking stride was so long and there was so much power from his front and back.”

Galileo made two starts in the run up to the Derby in the spring of his 3-year-old campaign, starting favourite both times and winning the Listed Ballysax S. over stablemate and eventual G1 St Leger scorer Milan (GB) (Sadler's Wells) and subsequent four-time G1 Irish St Leger victor Vinnie Roe (Ire) (Definite Article {GB}), and the G3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial with Michael Tabor joining the ownership line.

The stage was set at Epsom on June 9, 2001 for a showdown with Lord Weinstock's G1 2000 Guineas winner Golan (Ire) (Spectrum {Ire}), and those two were dispatched as 11-4 joint favourites. Poised two lengths off the lead and in the clear in the three path under Mick Kinane with Golan racing on his heels, Galileo loomed ominously rounding Tattenham Corner. Put to a drive by Kinane upon straightening, Galileo inhaled the front-running Mr. Combustible (Ire) and Perfect Sunday in a matter of strides and was never in danger thereafter, drawing clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths eased down as Golan closed in vain to take second. It was a monumental first Derby win for O'Brien, who in the 20 years since has racked up a record eight victories in the blue riband, all of whom descend from Sadler's Wells via Galileo or Montjeu (Ire). It was also an important first for Sadler's Wells, who by that stage had collected 10 champion sire titles and counted four Oaks winners and two 2000 Guineas winners among his honor roll, but who had not yet had a son take the Derby. Sadler's Wells would double up the following season with the O'Brien-trained High Chaparral (Ire).

Galileo was, naturally, made the heavy favourite for the G1 Irish Derby off his scintillating Epsom score. The bay was stationed slightly further back at The Curragh and pinned down on the fence, but that proved to be no problem. Creeping ominously closer to the frontrunners rounding the turn, he split rivals at the top of the straight and hit the front under a mere hand ride from Kinane, sprinting clear with one reminder of the whip and winning again eased down by four lengths.

With superiority among his generation firmly established, Galileo headed to Ascot in late July for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S. and a date against elders, chief among them Godolphin's four-time Grade/Group 1-winning 5-year-old Fantastic Light (Rahy). Sitting a similar trip to the Irish Derby, Galileo got first run on Fantastic Light in the lane and, despite his rival soon escaping from a pocket and coming to eyeball him in the final quarter-mile, turned him back to post a two-length victory. The King George proved to be Galileo's highest-rated victory, and placed him among an elite group to have done the Derby double and the King George, the others being Nijinsky, Grundy (GB), The Minstrel, Troy (GB), Shergar (GB) and Generous (Ire).

The stage was set for the continuation of a budding rivalry at Leopardstown in September in the G1 Irish Champion S., and Galileo and Fantastic Light didn't disappoint. This time, Galileo spotted Fantastic Light a length in midpack. He was forced wide by a tiring Give The Slip (GB) turning for home, which may have left him at a disadvantage as Fantastic Light ducked through an opening on the rail, but it is anyone's guess as to what the outcome may have been otherwise, with each horse incredibly game as they battled down the stretch. Fantastic Light held on to his narrow advantage and handed Galileo his first ever defeat.

Though races like the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe or Champion S. would have served as a fine conclusion to Galileo's glittering racing career, connections again advertised their lofty opinion of the colt by taking a highly unconventional route and signing him up for the GI Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park. Galileo proved flat footed after chasing a hot pace on the dirt that day, coming home sixth behind the epic battle of defending winner Tiznow (Cee's Tizzy) and Arc winner Sakhee (Bahri).

“With the benefit of hindsight it was an unrealistic target to ask him to do that after having such a tough season and racing against the older horses, but it was the belief that was in him, the belief that everyone had in him, that we thought it could be possible that it could happen,” O'Brien recalled. “I remember when he came in, he was after trying so hard he was almost crying. He was so genuine.”

An important chapter at Ballydoyle came to a close thereafter, as Galileo retired with six wins from eight starts, earnings of £1,621,110, a Timeform rating of 134 and European champion 3-year-old honours. But for all he accomplished in his own right from the world's most famous yard, what he has given back to it in the ensuing years has been simply transcendent.

By the time Galileo went to stud, Sadler's Wells's champion sire title count had extended to 11, and Urban Sea's half-brother King's Best (Kingmambo) had done his part to boost the pedigree in winning the millennium G1 2000 Guineas. Galileo entered stud at Coolmore in 2002 for 50,000 Irish Pounds, and had dipped to €37,500 by the time his first runners hit racecourses in 2005.

From a first crop of 126 foals, Galileo got off to a solid start in his first season with runners, with 13 winners headed by the listed-winning Innocent Air (Ire) and the stakes-placed Galileo's Star (Ire) and Global Genius (Ire). While his debut season was promising, Galileo's potency was a secret no more by the end of his second, with Nightime (Ire)-now the dam of multiple Group 1 winner Ghaiyyath (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) and Grade I winner Zhukova (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus})-becoming his first Classic winner in the G1 Irish 1000 Guineas, Sixties Icon (GB) his second in the G1 St Leger and Teofilo (Ire) his first 2-year-old champion on the merit of victories in the G1 Dewhurst S. and G1 National S. Teofilo's Jim Bolger-trained stablemate New Approach mirrored that juvenile Group 1 double the following season, just months after Galileo's Soldier Of Fortune (Ire) won the G1 Irish Derby, and New Approach would the following year go on to emulate his sire in the Derby and take the Irish Champion and Champion S. en route to a successful stud career that has included his own Derby winner in Masar (GB). From the same crop as New Approach and likewise trained by Bolger–who continues to be rewarded by a significant early investment in Galileo–Lush Lashes scooped the G1 Coronation S., G1 Yorkshire Oaks and G1 Matron S. in 2008.

By the time New Approach and Lush Lashes were doing their best work, Galileo's fee had been switched to private, having been listed at €150,000 the season prior, which is the way it remained for the rest of his stud career. By the end of 2009, Galileo had sired 63 stakes winners, 12 of those at the highest level. His flagbearer that season was Rip Van Winkle (Ire), who had to settle for second behind Galileo's Guineas, Derby, and Arc-winning half-brother Sea The Stars (Ire) (Cape Cross {Ire}) in the G1 Coral-Eclipse but who went on to win the G1 Sussex S., G1 Queen Elizabeth II S. and the following year's G1 Juddmonte International.

And just when it became apparent that Galileo's progeny could do it all, from champion 2-year-olds to brilliant milers, hard-knocking stayers and everything in between, along came the colt that would outshine them all, and now, in the stud barn, appears poised as his sire's heir apparent.

By the time Frankel (GB) appeared on race day for the first time at Newmarket on Aug. 13, 2010, word was out on Khalid Abdullah's homebred who, like his sire, has been bestowed with the name of a legend in his field, this time the American Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. Frankel's victory that day over Nathaniel (Ire)-also by Galileo and the subsequent winner of the King George and Eclipse S.-kicked off a procession of 14 wins from 14 starts for trainer Sir Henry Cecil, from seven furlongs to a mile and a quarter and encompassing 10 Group 1s. Frankel's six-length front-running blitz of the 2011 2000 Guineas was one of the most visually astonishing performances in the race's history, while his highest-rated victories came courtesy of his 11- and seven-length scores in the G1 Queen Anne S. and G1 Juddmonte International the following season. Frankel's Timeform rating of 147 is the highest ever assigned to a flat horse, and he has continued to build on a quick start at stud, with shades of his sire in his accomplishment of siring both this year's English and Irish Derby winners.

Though he was doubtless the star turn, Frankel was far from a one-horse show for Galileo at the turn of the decade, other standouts including the Irish Derby, Irish Champion S. and triple American Grade I-winning Cape Blanco (Ire); dual French Classic victress Golden Lilac (Ire); Irish Derby and GI Secretariat S. winner Treasure Beach (GB); Oaks and Irish Oaks winners Was (Ire) and Great Heavens (GB); and Irish Guineas winners Misty For Me (Ire) and Roderic O'Connor (Ire).

In 2013 Galileo provided his second Derby winner when Ruler of the World (Ire) obliged in just his third start for Aidan O'Brien, the day before Intello (Ger) gave their sire another Derby double when taking the G1 Prix du Jockey Club. Australia (GB) made it back-to-back blue ribands for Galileo in 2014, and emulated his sire with the double in the Irish Derby before dropping back in trip to take the Juddmonte International.

Gleneagles (Ire) was the headline act in 2015, doubling up in the 2000 and Irish 2000 Guineas in addition to victory in the G1 St James's Palace S. Found (Ire) became her sire's third winner of the GI Breeders' Cup Turf in 2015 before leading home a trifecta for her sire in the following year's Arc, while Highland Reel became his fourth Breeders' Cup Turf winner the following season in the midst of a career that would see him win seven Group 1s in three countries, becoming Galileo's highest-ever earner. Minding (Ire), likewise, won seven Group 1s across 2015/16, and her full-sister Empress Josephine (Ire) took the latest renewal of the Irish 1000 Guineas in May.

Other standouts in the latter half of the decade included dual Group 1-winning juvenile and dual Guineas winner Churchill (Ire); multiple Group 1-winning stayer Order Of St George (Ire); Arc winner Waldgeist (Ire); four-time Group 1 and Classic winner Winter (Ire); triple Group 1 winner Decorated Knight (GB); multiple Group 1-winning sisters Magical (Ire) and Rhododendron (Ire); Oaks winner Forever Together (Ire) and dual Guineas winner Hermosa (Ire). Anthony Van Dyck (Ire) and Serpentine (Ire) became Galileo's fourth and fifth Derby winners in 2019 and 2020 for O'Brien, and last June Peaceful (Ire) became Galileo's record-breaking 85th Group 1 winner, with the baton passed from Danehill. This year, the standard-bearer is champion 3-year-old filly Love (Ire), who made a belated return worth the wait with a stirring victory in the G1 Prince of Wales's S. last month at Royal Ascot. The aforementioned Empress Josephine is one of two filly Classic winners this year for Galileo, the other being the G1 Prix de Diane scorer Joan Of Arc (Ire).

Galileo has been champion sire in Britain and Ireland all bar one year since 2008 and earned his first champion broodmare sire title in 2020, a category in which he is way out in front currently in 2021.

Aidan O'Brien said on Saturday, “He was an unbelievable horse for everybody involved with him. What he did was exceptional. John [Magnier] did an incredible job managing him and recognised the mares that were going to suit him. He recognised how good he was very young, and he was always so highly thought of before he even came to Ballydoyle. He was our first Derby winner from Ballydoyle, and we were so fortunate to have him. It's an incredible story, and obviously we'll probably never see it ever again. What made him very special was the attitude that he put into his stock. We'd never seen anything like that.

“He looked different as well going through his races–he didn't look like any other Thoroughbred. He had loads of genuine power. His stock had that as well, and the determination to put their heads out the same way he galloped. He'll be sorely missed by us all.”

Sorely missed, indeed, but not soon forgotten, with a legacy sure to shine bright for generations to come through his sons and daughters.

Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.

Copy Article Link

Liked this article? Read more like this.

  1. Frankel Book 1 Star Debuts at Killarney
  2. Brother To Wild Beauty Debuts At Newmarket
  3. Late Late Show At Goffs Orby As Frankel Filly Shines At €1.85m To MV Magnier
  4. MV Magnier Buys 1.85-Million Frankel Filly, The New Goffs Orby Topper
  5. Gimcrack Hero Lake Forest Part Of Tattersalls Autumn HIT Catalogue

Never miss another story from the TDN

Click Here to sign up for a free subscription.