Without any hint of unnecessary romanticism at all, Galileo was one of not only the most successful and beautiful races horses we’ve ever seen, but also one of the most important.
On the track Galileo had a career which lasted a little over a year, racing from October 2000 until October 2001, winning six of his 8 races in total.
But that doesn’t even begin to blow the dust off the cover of the story, let alone tell it as what happened after he retired has proven to be extraordinary for the breeding industry.
Class 1 horses are rare for owners to find. They can move up to Group 3, Group 2 and if you’re lucky, Group 1 level. Galileo was Group 1 class and even won the Derby, but his importance to thoroughbred racing as a whole wasn’t truly realised until he retired from racing which we’ll discover.
Galileo was foaled on March 30th, 1998. When ready to race, he was over 16 hands high, a bay with a white blaze and a real good looker.
It was always known that, beyond any bad luck, he would be a success. He was described as being one of the best-bred horses in training anywhere in the world, something everyone in the industry can agree on.
|Sire/Dam||Grand Sire/Dam||Great Grand Sire/Dam|
|Sadler’s Wells||Northern Dancer||Nearctic|
|Fairy Bridge||Bold Reason|
|Urban Sea||Miswaki||Mr Prospecter|
The above pedigree may not make much sense to those not used to looking into thoroughbred breeding, but believe us when we say this is the most impeccable pedigree.
We must never forget how far back this goes, and why horses like Galileo remind us that we know it’s in the blood with this breed.
As you can see, his grandsire was Northern Dancer, the first Canadian-bred to win the Kentucky Derby back in 1964.
Northern Dancer was one of the most successful sires of the entirety of the 20th century, demanding a fortune at stud. He sired 645 sires which were recorded, 411 of them winning with 147 being recognised stakes winners. In other words, just being by Northern Dancer meant there was a 1 in 4 chance of winning a stakes race.
It wasn’t just about the numbers however it was about the quality too. Northern Dancer sired:
- Nijinsky – the last Triple Crown winner in Britain in 1970
- The Minstrel – Derby, Irish Derby, King George winner
- Shareef Dancer – Irish Derby, King George winner
- El Gran Senor – Irish Derby winner
As well as many others. Lots won Classics and some won over a mile, but the point about the above was that his progeny had stamina and won over middle distances. One of them was Sadler’s Wells, an Irish Champion Stakes winner.
Sadler’s Wells won three Group 1’s in 1984 and went on to be a great sire in his own right. He had over 130 Group 1 winners in fact and, despite him not winning at the top level beyond ten furlongs, it was becoming obvious his progeny was doing well in the Derby.
One of those of course was Galileo.
Northern Dancer and Sadler’s Wells had made their mark and Galileo had won a Derby (see below). Would this chap be able to carry on the family line and be a success at stud? Would he ever.
Galileo was retired to Coolmore Stud, initially operating as a shuttle stallion. He stood at Coolmore’s main premises in Ireland for the Northern Hemisphere breeding season, switching to their Australian farm for the Southern Hemisphere season. From 2006 onwards, he stood exclusively at Tipperary.
By the time he was unfortunately euthanised on July 10th, 2021, Galileo had sired an incredible 338 individual stakes winners. 228 of those were Group winners, Sizzling’s win in August 2018 in fact handing Galileo a 328th European Group win, surpassing Sadler’s Wells, his own sire.
As if to accentuate the point we’re making, not only did Galileo go on to match and overtake his very prestigious sire and grandsire at stud, but one of the colts he produced was Frankel, the greatest racehorse we’ve ever seen on the track.
Furthermore, Frankel having retied has gone on to take over the mantle of champion sire and is himself the most sought-after stallion anywhere in the world. Incredible. Galileo’s most notable progeny:
- Frankel – rated 140, champion, himself now the sire of Classic winners Adayar, Hurricane Lane, Logician and others.
- Rip Van Winkle – three-time Group 1 winner.
- Nathaniel – second-best only to Frankel in his career, King George and Eclipse winner.
- Waldgeist – Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner.
- Australia – Derby winner.
- Ulysees – Eclipse and International Stakes winner.
- New Approach – 2000 Guineas and Derby winner.
- Order Of St George – multiple Ascot Gold Cup winner.
- Teofilo – unbeaten champion two-year-old, now top sire.
Other names which roll off the tongue include Found, Magical, Highland Reel, Churchill, Japan, Ruler Of The World, Love, Capri and many more.
So, we know all about how important Galileo has proven to be and that will roll on and on via the sons and daughters of Frankel, Cracksman, Teofilo and others. But how did he actually do on the track?
The answer is very well. Many of the dour pessimists will continue to say we need to see Flat horses like Galileo on the track for longer, but that’s not true.
It’s down to them proving themselves at the top level and then moving on which helps keep the breed going.
Galileo was a March foal, but was kept off the track until the October of his two-year-old year. Sent off the even-money favourite for a Leopardstown maiden, he stalked the leaders under Mick Kinane before scorching clear to win by 14 lengths. Immediately, his reputation was that of a top-level performer.
It was obvious from his one run that he was on the Derby trail. He was all about stamina at the Derby distance, so the Guineas was never under consideration for him and he was given a very traditional prep for Epsom.
In April 2001, Galileo went to the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown. The 1/3 favourite, he won that race in fine style under Kinane from Milan, himself a very fine horse.
His next start was at the same track in May, this time stepping up to Group 3 company in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial. An 8/15 shot this time, he had to tackle good ground for the first time having run on soft thus far.
Showing further improvement, Galileo responded well to Seamie Heffernan who was on board this time as the pair scored by 1½ lengths.
The Derby was next on the first Saturday in June at Epsom, and Galileo’s quality wasn’t lost on the public or the bookmakers. He opened up as short as 9/4 favourite, eventually going off at 11/4.
Full of confidence, Mick Kinane was never far away from the pace and he knew fine well this horse had class and stamina. That proved to be correct when Galileo was taken to the lead with under two furlongs to go, sweeping clear by 3½ lengths from 2000 Guineas winner Golan with Dewhurst winner Tobougg further back.
An easy win followed in the Irish Derby, while a sixth straight success came when he took on his elders in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in late July.
There, he was 1/2 favourite against the excellent Fantastic Light, the two finish first and second in a vintage renewal.
No three-year-old won the Derby and the King George after that until Adayar, a son of Frankel and grandson of Galileo, in 2021.
A pair of defeats followed in the Irish Champion Stakes back over ten furlongs, and in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on the dirt, but they did nothing to harm his reputation before he was swiftly retired to stud.
|Date||Race||Won By (Runner-Up)||SP|
|28/10/00||EBF Maiden Stakes||14 lengths, Taraza||1/1|
|16/04/01||Ballysax Stakes (Listed Race)||3½ lengths, Milan||1/3|
|13/05/01||Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (Group 3)||1½ lengths, Exaltation||8/15|
|09/06/01||The Derby (Group 1)||3½ lengths, Golan||11/4|
|01/07/01||Irish Derby (Group 1)||4 lengths, Morshdi||4/11|
|28/07/01||King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Group 1)||2 lengths, Fantastic Light||1/2|
As a list, that doesn’t look as impressive as some multiple Group 1 winners, but he was a truly outstanding three-year-old.
Officially, he ran to a mark of 126 in the Derby and to 130 in the King George, something very few horses of that age can manage and now his offspring and their offspring are regularly doing similar things, if not quite at his level other than Frankel.
Across his eight career runs, Galileo brought in £1,621,000 in win and place prize money. That equates to approximately £2.8 million in 2022 cash.
That’s an impressive figure considering he only ran for a year. £580,000 of his winnings were earned in the Derby, while he earned £435,000 for winning the King George.
His owners were attempting to help his stud fee even more by trying to win over a mile and a quarter and also on the dirt, as his granddad did in the Kentucky Derby. That didn’t work out.
Had he instead gone for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and come back the following season for a four-year-old campaign, we could have been looking at a horse winning around £6 million.
After retiring to stud, those earnings went up massively as he was an immediate success. Towards the end, the horse was said to be worth the better part of £200,000,000!
Unfortunately, he needed surgery at one stage. His foreleg didn’t heal properly, leading to a rather debilitating injury. That led to Galileo sadly being euthanised on July 10th, 2021.
Galileo was bred by David Tsui, a very prominent owner/breeder. Naturally Tsui owned Urban Sea, the dam, as well as Orpendale which was a name used by Coolmore Stud for some of their considerable breeding interests.
The Coolmore organisation owns many horses, with any combination of the interested parties going down as the official owners. In this case, Galileo’s listed owners were Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor, though the whole Coolmore team had an interest of course.
Coolmore’s regular trainer was and is Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle in County Tipperary. Galileo was sent there to be trained, very successfully too just like Derby winners before and after him.
During his racing career, Galileo was ridden in seven of his eight races by champion jockey Mick Kinane. A popular jockey on both sides of the Irish Sea, Kinane was able to show off all his skills on this horse, riding him bravely especially in the Derby at Epsom where he used up some juice to keep him close to the pace.