Op/Ed: When Does Too Much of a Good Thing Become a Bad Thing?


Galileo | Coolmore


When living concurrently amid an uninterrupted supply of excellence, at what point do we take it for granted and accept it as the norm? The era of super-sire Galileo (Ire) with his numerous Derby-winning and Group 1-supplying sons is something that will continue to be written about in the ages to come. Showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 21, Galileo is casually superseding his own standard-setting sire's records, last year overtaking his number of individual Group 1 winners and bringing his own tally to 75.

Considering that the next best active European sire is Dubawi (Ire), with half that figure of Group 1 scorers, and that most elite sires that go down in the history books only manage on average about 25 to 30 top-level horses in their lifetime, only highlights how special Galileo is.

While Galileo is creating his own records, producing champion after champion, his well-bred sons are becoming more and more common among the stallion ranks. If you want to breed to a champion son of Galileo, there is no doubt that there are plenty of options. The question is, at what point does the market become so saturated that we sit back and ignore Group 1-producing Classic winners, wondering if Galileo is going to become the sire of sires that his father did.

To put a couple of things into perspective, let's take a glance back at Sadler's Wells, who, believe it or not, had his doubters in his early (and late) days regarding his likelihood of becoming a sire of sires.

Sadler's Wells ended up having 38 sons that produced at least one Group 1 winner. These include the heavyweights of Galileo, Montjeu (Ire), High Chaparral (Ire), Fort Wood, In The Wings (GB), El Prado (Ire) and Scenic (Ire), who produced 174 Group 1 winners between them. We all know that his sons have been some of the most prominent names and breed-shaping individuals across the entire globe.

A further note is that Galileo and High Chaparral were conceived when Sadler's Wells was 16 and 17, respectively, followed by Alexandrova (Ire), Ask (Ire) and Listen (Ire) among seven Group 1 winners when he was over 20.

Similarly, Mr. Prospector produced Kingmambo when he was 19 and Smart Strike and Fusaichi Pegasus when he was 21 and 26. Danzig also conceived War Front and Hard Spun at the age of 24 and 26, to mention just a few. So the likelihood of Galileo continuing his production merits into his twilight years is high.

To date, 14 of Galileo's sons have already produced at least one Group 1 winner. I'm sure this permits the title of 'sire of sires' even now, but in the interest of taking excellence as mediocrity, let's scrutinise some of his sons that we have available to us at stud to date.

Which one is looking the most likely heir to the throne? This is the obvious question, and when assessing sons of such a phenomenon, it is easy to expect each to equal his excellence, when in reality having even a quarter of his success will still make them an outstanding sire. Trusting that Galileo will produce the next super-sire, just as his father and grandfather did, we must not cast aside potential stalwarts too hastily.

Last year alone we had one son produce the Derby winner, another son gave us the highest-rated horse in the world, another supplied a dual 'Arc' heroine, with potential for being the first to claim a third, another provided the Melbourne Cup winner and another churned out a Group 1 winner from just 21 runners in a first crop of 2-year-olds. New Approach (Ire), Frankel (GB), Nathaniel (Ire) and Teofilo (Ire) are well established among the stallion ranks now with 30 Group 1 winners between them.

As well as this, dual Derby hero Australia (GB) made a breakthrough with his first 2-year-olds in having a Group 2 winner and three Group 1-placed colts. He looks to be on the brink of an avalanche of success in 2019. Prix du Jockey Club winner and champion 3-year-old in France, Intello (Ger), also produced a Group 1 winner from his first bunch of 3-year-olds among seven other stakes winners. Just to reiterate, that was in 2018 alone.

The genes to success are strong and each one of his top-performing sons are passing on the traits. Along with those who have runners, those waiting in the wings include dual Classic winner Gleneagles (Ire), a four-time Group 1-winning descendant from a world-renowned stallion family. He is standing alongside another brilliant miler and Classic winner in The Gurkha (Ire). Successful in the stallion-making Poule d'Essai des Poulains, The Gurkha followed up in the Sussex S. before his career was cut short after suffering a displaced colon.

All with first foals of 2019, Ulysses (Ire), Highland Reel (Ire) and Churchill (Ire) need no introduction or reminder of their feats. This regally-bred trio will prompt endless debate, doubters and gloaters as we wait to see how well they pass on their father's genetic make-up.

There are quite a few options when choosing a top-class son of Galileo but, leaving a personal favourite and the most bizarre of cases until last, let's look at Ruler Of The World (Ire). A Derby winner and brother to a champion, he is already the sire of a Group 1 winner from his first crop of 2-year-olds. This 2-year-old crop consists of only 42 foals due to an injury during the covering season. Just 21 of these foals have run to date and they happen to include G1 Newmarket Fillies' Mile star, Iridessa (Ire). She was bred by Ruler Of The World's trainer, Aidan O'Brien and his wife Annemarie, and is trained by their son Joseph.

Indisputably, a Derby winner by the most assuring sire of sires in the world who has already produced a Group 1 winner from extremely limited opportunities, standing for €8,000 this year, is a no-brainer.

Or is this where too much of a good thing comes into play? Has Galileo produced so many promising sons that these credentials can be overlooked? Perhaps this is leading back to the fashion of wanting a sales horse. A sprinter. A horse that is ready to run yesterday.

Contrary to sales-ground demands, sprinters are actually the group of horses with the least opportunity to win stakes races. At every age group, there is more opportunity for milers and middle-distance horses than for those running over five or six furlongs.

Perhaps because the races run beyond seven furlongs don't start until later in the season, people have associated sprinters as being the early horses overall, but unless your goal is to breed or buy a nursery or maiden winner, the real results are not early results. A sprint doesn't even feature in the top 10 of Europe's best Group 1 races and while the middle-distance and staying horses are routinely traded to Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and the U.S.A., the international market for European-bred sprinters is not one of demand.

Luck is preparation meeting the moment of opportunity and if you want a greater chance of success, breeding to race beyond seven furlongs provides the most opportunity. Keeping up with fashion is fine but having a higher chance of producing a top racehorse is better.

Ultimately, it is all about maximising our chances of breeding the best racehorse possible. If 38 of Sadler's Wells's sons were Group 1 producers, the odds are that Galileo will beat that record too, so just because there seems to be a surplus of extraordinary sons available does not necessarily mean there is mediocrity among them. Shrewd breeders may well take advantage of both value and opportunity.

So, when does too much of a good thing actually become a bad thing? The answer is when it goes to waste.

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