A Portrait of Galileo
In 2012 Galileo became Champion Sire in G.B. & Ireland for the fourth time, and is now generally regarded as the natural successor to his phenomenal sire, Sadler’s Wells.
In this portrait of Galileo, it is worth recalling his racing achievements and in particular, his impressive victory in the Epsom Derby, after which, the press had a field day with their headlines – “Galileo the star turn” and “Galileo in orbit” – so recording the tale of his impressive victory over Golan, before a modern-day record attendance of 150,000.
In that year, 2001, “Britain’s biggest day out,” gave some racegoers long traffic delays, including Sir Michael Stoute and Frankie Dettori, who had to abandon their cars to complete their journey on foot. But for most, once there, this Derby Day was reward enough.
Galileo arrived at Epsom via three wins at Leopardstown: a maiden victory at two, by a staggering 14 lengths, followed at three by an easy win in the Ballysax Stakes from the future English and Irish St Leger winners Milan and Vinnie Roe, and then finally, he took the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes, beating Exaltation.
On the face of it, the form was not quite good enough to win the Derby but, with his ongoing improvement in the hands of trainer Aidan O’Brien, he looked sure to be a major player.
The opposition was headed by the Michael Stoute-trained Golan, winner of the Two Thousand Guineas and ante-post-favourite. Other dangers included Perfect Sunday, winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial; Dilshaan, winner of the Racing Post Trophy, and Tobougg, winner of both the Prix la Salamandre and Dewhurst Stakes, and now ridden by Frankie Dettori. Twelve runners went to post, with Golan and Galileo going off 11-4 joint-favourites.
Rounding Tattenham Corner, the Barry Hills pair, Mr Combustible and Perfect Sunday, led the field, with Galileo just outside them in third.
Two and a half furlongs out, Mick Kinane brought Galileo smoothly to the front, from where he accelerated away to win by three and a half lengths, with Golan and Tobougg running on to fill the minor placings.
In the joyous scenes that followed, it did not go unnoticed that Galileo was the first son of Sadler’s Wells to win the Derby, and despite the modest early pace, he did so in the third fastest time (2 min 33.27 sec) in the history of the race.
The previous day, daughters of Sadler’s Wells filled the first three places in the Oaks – a feat not equalled since the daughters of Birdcatcher did so in 1852.
In the Irish Derby, Galileo retained his unbeaten record by beating the Italian Derby winner Morshdi by four lengths, with Golan a further four lengths away third. At Ascot in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Galileo received a hero’s welcome for his two-length defeat of the five-year-old Fantastic Light. But when the pair were re-matched in the mile and a quarter Irish Champion Stakes, Fantastic Light took his revenge by a head, albeit with Dettori being cautioned for his excessive use of the whip.
Galileo’s finale was the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont Park, but as second favourite to the Bobby Frankel-trained Aptitude, both ran unplaced to Tiznow, America’s ‘Horse of the Year’ in 2000 and, the first horse to win the race twice. Galileo was afterwards reported as being unable to handle the dirt surface and was later retired to Coolmore Stud in Ireland.
Galileo was the Champion Sire in G.B. & Ireland in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Notably, he is the sire of the unbeaten Frankel and the Epsom Derby winner New Approach, who has already made an exceptional start at stud. Galileo continues to stand at Coolmore Stud, Fethard, Co. Tipperary, where his fee is now private.
Galileo’s race-record, notable progeny and pedigree follow below.