<< Back
A salute to the great Galileo
15 Sep 2015 | By Mark Scully, ANZ BloodstockNews

As Galileo (Sadler’s Wells) reaches his milestone 200th individual stakes winner, Mark Scully (ANZ BloodstockNews) considers some the reasons for his extraordinary success, assesses Coolmore’s champion’s place among the all-time greats and asks whether his influence can increase in Australasia as we begin a brand new series of features marking significant stallion landmarks.

With victory in the Willis Champions Juvenile Stakes (Gr 3, 1m) at Leopardstown, Johannes Vermeer (2 c ex Inca Princess by Holy Roman Emperor) became the 200th individual stakes winner for Coolmore’s remarkable champion sire. To describe him as incomparable is not quite correct but it is mightily close.

With his 199th stakes winner, Galileo went by Danzig (Northern Dancer) in the all-time, worldwide standings and now only two stallions boast greater hauls than his 201; his father Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer) sits second with 294 stakes winners, while Danehill (Danzig) continues to lead the way on 347. His closest active rival is Giant’s Causeway (Storm Cat), all the way back on 156 stakes winners. It is rarified air being breathed by Galileo at this stage.

This is a remarkable success story that began in 1997, when Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer) was mated with the wonderful Prix De l’Arc De Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m) winning mare Urban Sea (Miswaki) (who also produced Sea The Stars (Cape Cross)), the result being the 1998-foaled bay colt Galileo.

A late two-year-old, Galileo won a Leopardstown maiden over a mile on debut in October 2000 before being put away for the winter. He returned in April of the following year to land the Ballysax Stakes (Listed, 1m2f), also at Leopardstown and made it a trio of wins at the Foxrock track in the Derby Trial Stakes (Gr 3, 1m2f) in May.

The next month, Galileo put in his defining performance as he tore apart the field to win The Derby (Gr 1, 1m4f) at Epsom in commanding fashion under Mick Kinane for trainer Aidan O’Brien. Racing prominently throughout, Galileo was produced three horses off the fence on straightening and surged to the front with just over two furlongs to run, ending the race as a contest and winning at his leisure.

Victories in the Irish Derby (Gr 1, 1m4f) and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 1m4f) followed, before his career ended with a second-placed finish behind older rival Fantastic Light (Rahy) in the Irish Champion Stakes (Gr 1, 1m2f) and a sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Gr 1, 10f). He was retired at the conclusion of his three-year-old career and sent off to Coolmore, with an introductory fee of IR£50,000.

It would be wrong to suggest Galileo was an instant success at stud, with only 13 winners from his first 126-strong Northern Hemisphere crop, albeit with the Listed winner Innocent Air among them but it was only when that group turned three that the mood changed. By 2006, his fee had dropped slightly to €37,500 but that was to represent incredible value, as 12 stakes winners took out a total of 19 stakes races between them worldwide.

It was Nightime’s success in the 2006 Irish 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) that really got the ball rolling, providing Galileo with his first Classic winner and confirming the promise displayed by a handful of stakes winners to that point. His second Classic winner came later that year, as Sixties Icon took out the St Leger (Gr 1, 1m6f), before Teofilo became his first two-year-old Group One winner with victory in the National Stakes (Gr 1, 7f) at the Curragh. By the time Red Rocks added the Breeders’ Cup Turf Stakes (Gr 1, 12f) in November that year, his reputation as something out of the ordinary was assured and his 2007 fee rocketed to €150,000 - the last time his fee would be advertised.

“That’s just the nature of the market,” reflects Coolmore’s David O’Loughlin on Galileo’s start at stud. “Like all these stallions, it takes two, three, four years before the breeders work out how best to use him but from the moment his first crop began racing, it was obvious he was very good.

“He had all the credentials you would want heading to stud. Firstly, he has the pedigree, being by who, at the time anyway, was the greatest sire of them all and out of the wonderful mare Urban Sea. He then produced on the track; he was an extremely high-class race horse and to cap it all, he has tremendous good looks to match. All studs will say their stallions look great but in his case, it really is true. In all my time in the industry, he’d be the best looking horse I’ve ever seen.”

A statistical analysis of Galileo’s progress compared to Danehill’s at the same stage of their stallion careers makes for particularly interesting reading. From the same number of crops of racing age, Danehill boasted 223 stakes winners, from 1488 runners, compared to Galileo’s 1613. Danehill also had 126 Group winners, compared with Galileo’s 127. Those 127 Group winners have accounted for a total of 273 Group victories between them, compared to the 259 Group wins of Danehill’s 126 Group winners.

Another similarity between the two is their ability to produce high class progeny of either sex. At the same stage of his career, Danehill had produced 110 stakes-winning colts and 113 stakes-winning fillies. Not dissimilarly, Galileo has been represented by 107 stakeswinning colts and 94 stakes-winning fillies. The beginning of their respective careers also displays some remarkable similarities, in that they made what could be described as relatively slow starts.

From his first crop, Danehill was represented by two stakes winners and Galileo only one, before he notched 13 with his second; Galileo sent out 12. Their trajectories upwards from that point continue to prove not too dissimilar. The pair are particularly remarkable for their consistency. In fact, such is the almost constant supply of stakes winners by Galileo, the statistics highlighted in this feature had to be updated several times throughout the various drafts.

This consistency is something noted by O’Loughlin. “Like every great sire, he is just so consistent,” he said. “He may have a slow couple of months from time to time but that’s it; he never has a bad crop. I think what took some people by surprise was that it became obvious fairly quickly that his horses could run early. A lot of people thought that would not be the case.

“If you look at some of his very best horses, Frankel, Australia, Gleneagles, Teofilo, they were all great two-year-olds but the key is he is not confined to that. He gets two-year-olds, three-year-olds and they continue to perform at the older ages too. He gets mile horses, middle distance horses, colts, fillies, there’s no weakness.”

With a stallion of such high profile comes the pressure to deliver progeny of the very highest quality and as far as Galileo is concerned, he has excelled in this department. To look through his list of Group One-winning offspring is to go through something of a who’s-who of modern day racing history.

Top of the pile of course is the exceptional Frankel, arguably the greatest of all time. Undefeated in 14 career starts, he posted some of the most iconic wins of a generation, including his scarcely believable performance in winning the 2011 2,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) at Newmarket.

One of Frankel’s closest rivals during his career was Nathaniel, also by Galileo, who despite the dominance of Frankel, found the opportunities to land a few Group One wins of his own too, taking out the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 1m4f) and the Eclipse Stakes (Gr 1, 1m2f). Frankel was Galileo’s 44th Group winner, Nathaniel his 51st and the list goes on.

Other famous names to enjoy success at the highest level include the likes of the Windsor Park shuttle stallion Rip Van Winkle, the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders Association stallion Cape Blanco and the smart French performer and now Cheveley Park Stud-based Intello.

New Approach became his first Epsom Derby-winning son in 2008 and Ruler Of The World his second in 2013. His best to this stage has arguably been Australia, out of the wonderful Oaks (Gr 1, 1m4f) winner Ouija Board (Cape Cross), who was bred to win the race and obliged in impressive fashion, denying the subsequent St Leger (Gr 1, 1m6f) winner Kingston Hill (Mastercraftsman). Australia also followed in his sire’s footsteps in following up in the Irish Derby, a race also won by Treasure Beach in 2011, Cape Blanco in 2010 and Soldier Of Fortune in 2007.

Tapestry would surely rank as one of his best daughters, having lowered the colours of the excellent Taghrooda (Sea The Stars) in the Yorkshire Oaks (Gr 1, 1m4f) in 2014 and she is one of two winners of the race for her sire; Lush Lashes took the race in 2008. He has been represented by only one Epsom Oaks winner to this date, with Was taking out the 2012 renewal of the race. In total, he has produced 19 Group One-winning fillies and mares, with the likes of Misty For Me and Marvellous joining Nightime in winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas.

This almost constant stream of performers at the highest level is one of the most remarkable aspects of Galileo’s success; the victory of Mondialiste in the Woodbine Mile (Gr 1, 8f) at Woodbine in Canada on Sunday now means that more than 25 per cent of his total tally of stakes winners are Group One winners. Continuing the theme of the comparison with Danehill, at the same stage the leading sire of stakes winners had also sent 50 Group One winners from his 223 to that point.

Coolmore Australia’s Sebastian Hutch believes a big reason for this success is Galileo’s ability to pass on a great deal of his tremendous ability to his progeny. “Anyone who saw Galileo go around Epsom in 2001 like he was on train tracks knows what a supreme athlete he was and he has been able to pass that on to his stock,” he told ANZ Bloodstock News.

“You only have to go and look at Galileo’s at the yearling sales to see it; they walk with tremendous fluidity and real efficiency of movement. “He also has an insanely good temperament and he really seems to impose himself both athletically and mentally on his stock.

“Adelaide is a fantastic example of that. Before the Cox Plate, a lot of people noticed that he really seemed to be absorbing everything that was going on around him, it was one of the things that really endeared him to people.

“He was set a nearly impossible task that day but seeing him before the race, you knew he was ready to show his ability to best effect and it was that which helped him overcome all the negatives going into the race.”

Prior to his Derby victory, jockey Joseph O’Brien told the BBC, Australia had once almost fallen asleep in the stalls as a two-year-old, such was the nature of his laid-back character and O’Loughlin also highlighted this as a significant factor in Galileo’s breeding success.

“He has the most terrific temperament; he gets that from his father,” he said. “He’s an extremely laid-back horse, really straightforward. I think that probably helps with his progeny too, because so many of them get that from him.”

While still nothing like finished himself, Galileo’s considerable wider influence on the thoroughbred is really beginning to be felt, with a number of his sons beginning to carve out success of their own at stud.

New Approach has sired Classic winners himself, with Dawn Approach landing the 2,000 Guineas and Talent taking out the Oaks at Epsom, not to mention the SAJC Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) victory of May’s Dream in Australia. Teofilo too has sired Classic winners, with Pleascach taking out this year’s Irish 1,000 Guineas and Trading Leather having won an Irish Derby. Voleuse De Couers landed and Irish St Leger (Gr 1, 1m6f), while Sonntag flew the flag in Australia, winning the Queensland Derby (Gr 1, 2200m). Both Roderic O’Connor and Cape Blanco have made encouraging starts to their respective stallion careers, while the first yearlings by Frankel are starting to be offered at some of the world’s leading yearling sales. Noble Mission, a brother to Frankel, whose rise to Group One success was one of the leading narratives of the 2014 season, has been well received in his first year at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky and Australia’s progeny will doubtless be highly sought after when the time comes.

“He has any number of high class sons going to stud all around the world,” Hutch said. “The world is holding its breath on the Frankel yearlings, Australia retired to stud last year, Gleneagles you would imagine will join him in the next six to 18 months and who knows what other horses are waiting at Ballydoyle now?

“He’s out of a great mare too in Urban Sea, she is a wonderful broodmare and you would like to think a horse as good as Galileo would have a big influence not only as a sire of sires but as a broodmare sire too.”

The latter would appear to be coming to fruition, with Galileo proving himself an equally potent broodmare sire in recent years. This year’s Oaks winner Qualify (Fastnet Rock) is out of his daughter Perihelion, a winner and Group Two-placed herself, who has also produced a smart two-year-old in the shape of Shogun (Fastnet Rock), a stylish winner over seven furlongs at the Curragh and third in the Futurity Stakes (Gr 2, 7f) last month.

Another Classic winner to boast a dam by Galileo is the now retired 2,000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder (Dubawi), while last week at Doncaster, trainer Jim Bolger unveiled what looks to be a very smart filly with a view to the 2016 Classics, with Turret Rocks winning the May Hill Stakes (Gr 2, 1m). The filly is out of the placed mare Beyond Compare, herself a three quarter-sister to another of Galileo’s Group One-winning mares Galikova. Galileo Gold (Paco Boy) is also likely to be among next year’s leading three-year-olds, on the evidence of his impressive win in the Vintage Stakes (Gr 2, 7f) at Glorious Goodwood in July.

In Australia, Classic winner Magicool (Fastnet Rock) is another Group One winner out of a Galileo mare, in this case the Listed winner Perfect Truth, while Greatwood (Manduro), who is out of the winning mare Gaze, is now a dual Listed winner for Gai Waterhouse. Thunder Fantasy (Lucky Owners) is also out of a Galileo mare, the winner Pink Pier, and is now a Group One winner in Hong Kong, having placed at the highest level three times in Australia and also won the Autumn Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m).

In total, 37 individual stakes winners are out of Galileo mares, with La Collina and Lea also among five Group One winners. Away from the racetrack, the sale topper at last month’s FasigTipton Saratoga Selected Yearling Sale, who was purchased for US$2,000,000, is a son of Tapit (Pulpit) out of the Group Three winning Galileo mare Dress Rehearsal. It is the promise of the apparent compatibility between Galileo and Fastnet Rock that is causing particular excitement at Coolmore and Sebastian Hutch said it is an angle the operation will be looking to exploit in years to come.

“What is very interesting to consider is the relationship between Fastnet Rock and Galileo,” he said. “The Oaks winner Qualify is out of a Galileo mare and Coolmore is in a privileged position from that point of view because the marriage between the two would appear to be a productive one. “I don’t think it would come as a surprise to anyone to learn we have invested a lot of time looking to send the right Fastnet Rock mares to Galileo; they would seem to suit him very well and it will be very interesting to follow the outcome of that.

While it is safe to say Galileo himself has not proven a tremendous success as a sire in Australia, with his 23 stakes winners headlined by five Group One winners in Linton, Niwot, Sousa, Seville and Adelaide, it is the promise shown by the likes of New Approach and Teofilo that is giving many hope.

The Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) winner Adelaide began his first breeding season at stud earlier this month and Hutch believes the precocity of his dam, coupled with the fact Galileo’s sons’ progeny appear to appreciate Australian conditions, makes him an exciting prospect.

“Adelaide has taken everything very, very well,” he said. “To be fair to the horse, he ran in five countries across three continents last year, so settling in somewhere and adapting is nothing new for him.

“He’s got a great nature and he looks absolutely fantastic now. He’s a horse people are very fond of, if only because of what he did at Moonee Valley.

“We have obviously been very particular in selecting the right mares for him; he’s very athletic and has great quality, he’s very correct.

“What will be most interesting with him is if he can mimic the versatility of Galileo. Obviously, he’s a fantastic sire of Classic types but he’s had 20 Group One winners at a mile or less. Adelaide is out of a Royal Ascot-winning two-year-old, so whether he will be able to pass on some of his dam’s precocity too will be fascinating.”

Both Hutch and O’Loughlin anticipate Galileo’s influence to continue to grow worldwide, based on the level of success enjoyed across the globe by Sadler’s Wells.

“Time has demonstrated Sadler’s Wells to be a tremendous influence; two of the most potent sires in the world, Galileo and Montjeu are sons of his,” said Hutch. “If Sadler’s Wells sets any kind of precedent, his influence worldwide is only going to increase. He already has four sons who have sired Group One winners and it would not be a surprise if that number increased dramatically in the coming years.”

O’Loughlin added: “Obviously, he’s going to be an influence for a very long time. His sons are already making an impact at stud, Cape Blanco’s are going well in North America and he has some very good sons recently retired.

“On top of that, his daughters are starting to make an impact too, the $2,000,000 lot at Saratoga recently was out of a Galileo mare, so he’s made a very good start in that regard.”

O’Loughlin also acknowledges the apparent willingness of the Ballydoyle team to once again send competitive young colts to compete in Australia could have a big impact, with a horse like the Grade One winner Highland Reel potentially following in Adelaide’s footsteps.

“I see no reason why his influence cannot extend more to Australasia,” he said. “We’re living in a smaller world now and we’re going to start seeing more and more of that.

“Sadler’s Wells had champion sires in South America, all over the world so I’m sure Galileo will be the same.”

Looking forward, there is nothing to suggest Galileo’s success will slow down any time soon. O’Loughlin reported Coolmore’s star stallion’s condition to be as good as it has ever been, with large books of high-class mares set to visit him for years to come yet.

“He’s obviously a very popular sire but he’s also a very high price sire, so he’s not so much of a commercial prospect these days,” O’Loughlin said. “Only a small number of breeders can afford to use him but he continues to cover excellent books of mares, as big as he ever has, with the split probably 60-40 in favour of his own shareholders.”

Hutch meanwhile believes only Dubawi, who is himself closing in on his 100th stakes winner, can realistically match Galileo’s exploits among current active stallions, although the number may favour Galileo. He said: “The only horse who could realistically have a chance to get anywhere near him is Dubawi because statistically, they are pretty much on a par at the same stage but Galileo would have the edge on sheer volume of numbers.

“There is often a misconception that volume of numbers means more success but actually, it can be difficult to sustain such a high level of quality over such a large number. Galileo does that though, it’s one of the things that makes him so great.”