Saluting the Greatness of Galileo – When Sadler’s Wells became the first stallion to sire 200 career stakes winners, I was 33 and had a full head of jet black hair – that’s how long ago that was! Danehill achieved the same feat a short while later and the pair have stood, metaphorically anyway, shoulder to shoulder at the head of the world of thoroughbred breeding for decades.
I won’t embarrass myself by saying what age I am now that Galileo has become the next great stallion to join the 200 club, but as many of you know, the passage of time means that I am obliged to put sunscreen on parts of my head that were once protected by hair!
The success of Galileo has been well documented in recent days, but as is the case when any significant milestone is passed, a certain amount of nostalgic thought is prompted.
Galileo was a mighty racehorse. He won his only start at two by 14-lengths, while at three, he won two Derbies and claimed a thrilling renewal of the King George at Ascot. However, the race that sticks most vividly in my mind is his win in the Derby at Epsom. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but to watch him that day was to know that you were witnessing something exceptional. It’s worth reviewing the replay to appreciate what a complete display of speed, stamina, power, balance and athleticism he produced on that occasion – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PBqLAodueQ
I’ve never been to Epsom, but it was interesting to hear Ryan Moore contrast the track to that of Moonee Valley when he came out for the Cox Plate last year.
The cauldron at ‘The Valley’ is regarded as the most demanding track in Australia with its tight turns and tricky camber, but listening to Ryan talk about Epsom made any Australian challenge sound like a comparative walk in the park. Epsom is regarded as the ‘ultimate’ test for any racehorse, requiring speed, stamina, athleticism and fortitude. The first 1000m of the Derby trip sees the field climb 105ft (32m – The Statue Of Liberty in New York is about 45m, which will give some perspective), a significant test in itself. However, at about 900m from home, the field is forced through the next 700m to tackle a sharp 92ft (28m) descent combined with a steep, straight-long camber, before one more tough incline through the final furlong of the race.
The fast nature of the last 1000m of the race is best demonstrated by the fact that the world record for 1000m of 53.69 was run down the Epsom track in 2012!
While I’m not saying he was right (or wrong), particularly with Australia in mind, but understanding the test that the race represents and watching it each year makes it easy to comprehend why Federico Tesio concluded; ‘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’.
It would probably be an exaggeration to say that Galileo (pictured with Colm and daughter Ella) made an inauspicious start at stud, but at the same time, to the objective observer 13 individual winners and a single stakes winner from his first European crop of two year-olds in 2005 probably didn’t represent an earth-shaking debut or an accurate indication of what was to come. He sired four new individual group one winners this past weekend alone to bring his career tally to a mind-boggling 51.
He has sired 12 individual group one winning two year-olds, a particularly eye-catching tally when you consider the four stallions immediately behind him on the European General Sires list at the moment haven’t sired as many as that combined! Galileo has sired 103 individual group one horses and he has 20 group one winners at a mile or less. May I remind you that he is still just 17 years of age!
As Joni Mitchell sang (thanks James Bester!) ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ and this is very much the case with stallions in my experience. Irrespective of his credentials arriving in Australia in 2005 – a champion racehorse, by an incredibly successful champion sire, out of an elite, champion racemare – Galileo didn’t meet with the reception from Australian breeders that I would have expected.
It’s probably a significant reason for the fact that of his 16 ‘full’ crops of racing age to date, only one, his first Australian crop, hasn’t produced at least one group one winner (Note – 3 of Danehill’s 27 full crops failed to produce a group one winner, while 4 of Sadler’s Wells’ 23 full crops didn’t either). What he’s gone on to achieve internationally since has been nothing short of remarkable and I believe that, as is the case with many shuttle stallions, inspection of Galileo during his first season at stud in Australia meant he was patronised far more effectively in his subsequent seasons down here.
Notably his 4th and 5th Australian crops produced a combined total of 16 stakes winners of 42 stakes races. If nothing else, such success demonstrates that sires of the calibre of Galileo shouldn’t be taken for granted – anywhere.
Who knows when the next 200-club member will arrive.
Fastnet Rock is bounding toward 100 career stakes winners and he has time on his side, but he still has some way to go to replicate the feats of a horse like Galileo.
As for the future, it’s hard to imagine him not continuing his crusade to ‘breed-shaper’ status.
To date this year he’s sired 36 individual stakes winners and is on track to eclipse his 2014 total of 39 individual stakes winners through the calendar year. It’s interesting to note that in 2004, when Sadler’s Wells claimed the last of his European sire titles, his only sons inside the top-50 were Barathea (11th) and In The Wings (36th).
Admittedly he did have a champion sire son in the US in El Prado at that stage, but still, just two sons in the top-50 didn’t seem an adequate reflection of his dominance at the time. Fast-forward three years and not only were In The Wings and Barathea in the top-20, but they had been joined by Montjeu and Galileo while Sadler’s Wells himself still held prominent rank.
A year later, Galileo and Montjeu quinella’d the list. As a wise man once said, ‘patience is a virtue’ and it may be a more salient point in the case of Galileo than most. He has four sons to have sired group one winners to date, including New Approach, Teofilo and Rip Van Winkle. Frankel, Australia, Nathaniel and Intello all have progeny on the ground or on the way, while the likes of Gleneagles and Adelaide are next in the pipeline. As far as bright futures go, they don’t get any brighter…
Figures referenced from racingpost.com, arion.co.nz & bloodhound.net.au