Thoroughbreds: Galileo proves he’s the brightest star in the stallion galaxy

Thoroughbreds: Galileo proves he’s the brightest star in the stallion galaxy

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Tony Arrold has captured the very essence of the overarching polemical dilemma in Australian Thoroughbred Breeding and Racing: Why are we not breeding top class middle (classic) distance and staying racehorses? I’ll leave the explanation(s) to him in his seminal treatise as follows. It’s a very perspicacious retrospective analysis. I wonder what an equally insightful prospective study might reveal? Based on the statistical evidence posited by Tony (Arrold) it appears ‘Galileo’ is that very rare exception; a stallion who appears to improve with advancing age?

‘The Wizard of Dormello’ Federico Tesio famously said that; “the thoroughbred exists because its selection has depended, not on experts, technicians, or zoologists, but on a piece of wood: the winning post of the Epsom Derby.”

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Despite a poor record in Australia, Galileo has proved himself the world’s best stallion.



4:13PM JULY 5, 2020


If there were any doubts as to who is the world’s best stallion, Coolmore Stud’s colossus Galileo removed them in a record-breaking dual classic triumph on historic Epsom Downs racetrack, England, on the weekend.

Galileo had his clan in cruising mode on the day, with Serpentine winning the Group I Derby Stakes (2400m) by 5½ lengths in a bold frontrunning exhibition, while Love slammed seven other three-year-old fillies by nine lengths in the Group I English Oaks (2400m).

While adding to the extraordinary ownership by Coolmore interests in both classics – and this year with both winners also bred by the premier Irish stud — the Derby-Oaks double provided the eighth success in each for trainer Aidan O’Brien, the master of Ballydoyle.

The Irish whiz now has the Derby’s trainer record outright, having shared it with four others prior to Serpentine’s win. But he is still some way off the Oaks record, which is with Robert Robson who prepared 13 winners from 1802 to 1825, inclusive.

Himself the Derby winner of 2001, Galileo (Sadler’s Wells-Urban Sea, by Miswaki) now stands alone as the most successful stallion of the Derby’s 240-year history, with five sons on the honour roll. He previously shared it with five others including his former, now deceased Coolmore Stud colleague Montjeu (by Sadler’s Wells).

Oaks heroine Love, the 11-10 favourite after her four-length win in the Group I English 1000 Guineas (1600m) last month, is the fourth in the fillies’ classic for Galileo and she is now Ballydoyle’s pin-up girl for Europe’s premier race, the Group I Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) in France in October.

Serpentine, a 25-1 chance and only added to the Derby field after a nine-length win in a maiden event over 2000m at the Curragh, Ireland, seven days beforehand, is the 317th stakeswinner for Galileo and his 86th individual Group I winner.

Two global breeding databases are at odds over the world’s stallion record for Group I winners with one behind Galileo’s 86, the other with Coolmore’s former champion Danehill with 89.

But since Galileo, though getting on at age 22, has at least four more racing crops ahead (two-year-olds, yearlings, foals and mares in-foal to him), that record will be beyond dispute sooner rather than later as Galileo charges towards his 12th European sires’ crown.

Whereas Danehill was a supreme force as a dual hemisphere stallion, including a record nine sires’ premiership in Australia, it must be said Galileo was a disappointment if not a failure in his brief time as a shuttle stallion with his overall record sullied by five seasons on Coolmore’s NSW Hunter Valley operation in Australia.

Galileo’s Australian record lists just 19 stakeswinners, five of which won at Group I level. That’s 6 per cent of both categories of his overall statistics.

The reasons for these radically unbalanced results are most certainly found beyond the gates of Coolmore Stud, since the stud’s mating procedures here mirror the high professional standards set at its Irish headquarters. And with an average 113 foals per season arriving from his five Australian seasons, 2002 to 2006, Galileo was not short of quality and quantity of his mated mares.

Much of the negatives sit with how Galileo’s progeny were handled when arriving as immature two-year-olds at racing stables, with many pushed along too early to fit the Australian regime of a concentration of speed aimed at a lucrative, almost obscene, juvenile prizemoney calendar.

The best conceived in Australia by Galileo was the filly Igugu. She was shipped off to South Africa, was spared racing at two years but rewarded connections’ patience by landing four Group Is at three and four, along with Horse of the Year honours.

The burnout effect of the Australian market’s lust for two-year-old speed has played out with great clarity over the past 10 to 15 years to the extent that the home-bred stamina horse has plummeted to abysmal depths as northern hemisphere imports and New Zealand-breds dominate the distance features.

The thoroughbred industry need not be reminded that Vow and Declare last year was the first Australian-bred winner of the Group I Melbourne Cup (3200m) in 10 years. But the raid by imports on stakes races beyond 1600m and for horses aged three years and upwards, roars onwards.

In the current season, from August 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, 85 stakes races for this age category in this distance range, have been run in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, the three mainland states where the majority of imported horses are trained.

Stayers bred in Ireland won 20 (23.5 per cent), New Zealand 16 (18.8 per cent), Great Britain nine (10.6 per cent), Japan and France four each (4.7 per cent) with Germany and South Africa the origins of three stakeswinners.

This leaves Australian-breds accounting for 29 stakes wins (34 per cent) including a measly four of 14 Group I events for the age-group and distance range.

Irish-breds claimed six of the 14 Group Is and, ironically, they included the Galileo duo Cape Of Good Hope (Caulfield Stakes) and Magic Wand (Mackinnon Stakes) – the former from a Danehill mare, the latter from a mare by the Danehill horse Danehill Dancer.

Like Galileo’s Group I winners Alice Springs, Circus Maximus, Minding and last year’s runaway Irish Derby winner Sovereign, Serpentine was also produced by a daughter of Danehill Dancer, Remember When. This English Oaks runner-up is the dam also of four other stakeswinners, an unraced two-year-old colt and a yearling colt – all by Galileo.

Serpentine’s year-older brother Yulong Captain races in Victoria for Yulong Investments, winning three of 12 starts to date, including wins over 2400m at Swan Hill and Sandown at his past two starts.

Remember When’s mother Lagrion, by dual Group I winner Diesis, is among the rare broodmare gems to have produced three or more Group I winners – her seven winning foals including Dylan Thomas, Queen’s Logic and Homecoming Queen.

Dylan Thomas, son of Danehill, was the standout performer with six Group Is in Ireland, England and France and notably the 2006 Irish Derby and the King George-Arc double of 2007.