Year in Review: The Year We Lost Galileo

December 23, 2021

Urban Sea gave birth to a Sadler’s Wells foal on 30 March 1998. The 1993 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe-winning mare and the 14-time Champion Sire of Ireland and Britain seemed like a promising match. Any owner would be hopeful of a high-quality foal from the US-bred pair.

A 16.5 hh bay colt with a narrow white blaze and a white sock on his near hind leg was delivered for breeders David Tsui (the owner of Urban Sea) and Orpendale (a name used by the Coolmore Stud of John Magnier).

That young foal would be named Galileo and would go on to win some of the most prestigious races in Europe, followed by a stud career which would ensure his name forever in thoroughbred breeding.

The Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor-owned colt was sent to Ballydoyle to Aidan O’Brien to prepare for his racing career. Galileo raced only once during his two-year-old season, winning a maiden at Leopardstown by 14 lengths on 28 October 2000.

With breeding like his the Epsom Derby was always going to be the primary target, as it is with so many of the Coolmore partners-owned horses. As expected at the beginning of his three-year-old season, he took the Derby route, winning the Listed Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown in April before returning to the County Dublin racetrack the following month to win the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial. Double Derby delight soon followed for the son of Sadler’s Wells as he won the Vodafone Derby at Epsom before the Budweiser Irish Derby at The Curragh. 

With two Classics to his name, Galileo added the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot, beating Fantastic Light, before the Godolphin-owned colt gained revenge in the 1m 2f Group 1 Ireland The Food Island Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September 2001 – Galileo’s only defeat on European soil. Aidan O’Brien then sent him to Belmont Park for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on the dirt, and he finished a credible sixth to Tiznow, on a surfacing he was experiencing for the first and only time in his career. 

Galileo was named European Champion Three-Year-Old at the Cartier Racing Awards that season. In the 2001 International Classification he was the world’s third highest rated horse on 129, and was given a rating of 134 by Timeform. 

Ending a glorious racing career with 6 wins from 8 starts, Galileo was sent to Coolmore Stud in County Tipperary, arguably the world’s most renowned breeding operation.

Galileo became the leading sire in Ireland and Britain in 2008, a title he would claim annually from 2010 to 2020. In 2020, he provided a record fifth winner of the Epsom Derby when Serpentine followed New Approach, Ruler Of The World, Australia and Anthony Van Dyck in claiming the 1 mile 4 furlong Epsom classic.

In June 2020 he broke the longstanding world record of Danehill when Galileo sired his 85th Group 1 winner, thus becoming the most successful source of Group 1 winners in thoroughbred history. 

This year, Galileo suffered a debilitating injury to his near foreleg, but despite surgery it failed to heal. Unfortunately, Galileo was humanely euthanized on 10 July 2021. 

He sired some of the most successful horses of recent years, namely Frankel, Nathaniel, Waldgeist, Australia, Churchill, Found and Minding to name but a few. He is a leading broodmare sire and an emerging sire of sires. At the time of his death, Galileo had sired 20 sons who had already sired Group or Grade 1 winners.

Coolmore Stud lost its flagship stallion and the breeding industry lost its most successful sire in 2021. Thankfully, though his sons and daughters, the influence of the incredible Galileo will go on for generations to come.

Photo:Galileo (@Coolmorestud)

Contributing Authors

Breandán Ó hUallacháin

Breandán Ó hUallacháin writes about Irish, British, French and Australian horseracing, both National Hunt and Flat. He has an interest in the history of racing...

View Breandán Ó hUallacháin

@horsegirlamy16 @jonathanstettin it was the most amazing article I’ve ever read

Arlene Matlack (@MatlackArlene) View testimonials