IF one horse’s name is mentioned more than any other in Breeding Insights, it has to be Galileo. His influence on the thoroughbred breed is profound, and likely to be felt until long after I am around.
Twenty-one years ago he extended his unbeaten record to four when he defeated his co-favourite for the Derby at Epsom, Golan, by three and a half lengths. He had won three times at Leopardstown until that point. Galileo went on add the Group 1 Irish Derby and the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes before narrowly going down to Fantastic Light in an epic Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes.
Now Galileo, who died last year, has become only the second horse to be inducted into the QIPCO British Champions Series Hall of Fame by way of a public vote, securing a tight victory against two other superstars, the aptly-named Sea The Stars and the unforgettable Shergar. The public were invited to choose from a shortlist of three Derby-winning greats.
The special Derby vote was held in recognition of Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee, with today’s Derby forming a part of the official weekend celebrations. What swung it for Galileo? In addition to his victory in the Derby in 2001, he went on to become a record-breaking stallion. When he died, at the age of 23 last summer, Galileo had established himself as a stallion like no other, with a record 91 individual Group or Grade 1 winners.
Sue Magnier, his co-owner while racing, welcomed the news. She said: “We were thrilled to hear that Galileo has been inducted into the QIPCO British Champions Series Hall of Fame. He was a very special horse to everyone here at Coolmore and Ballydoyle, and hopefully his legacy will continue for many years to come.”
The 222nd Derby in 2001 was a strong edition, with Sir Michael Stoute having a pair of leading fancies in Golan (Pat Eddery), the unbeaten Group 1 2000 Guineas winner, and Dilshaan (Johnny Murtagh), successful in the Group 2 Dante Stakes and a Group 1 winner at two. Galileo and Golan were sent off the 11/4 joint-favourites, and the field also contained Group 1 winners Tobougg and Storming Home.
Under a stalking ride from Michael Kinane, Galileo was always going well. Three furlongs out, the race began in earnest, and when Kinane asked for more the response was immediate. Galileo went from cruise control to turbo and powered clear. It does not always follow that champions on the racecourse become champions at stud, but Galileo passed on his brilliance to generation after generation. Speed, stamina and strength were his hallmarks, with many of his offspring displaying his determination, versatility and will-to-win.
Galileo has been champion sire in Britain and Ireland on 12 occasions. His sons and daughters have combined to win all the British classics at least once, with his five Derby winners, four trained by Aidan O’Brien, being New Approach (Jim Bolger), Australia, Ruler Of The World, Anthony Van Dyck and Serpentine. His outstanding fillies have included Found, Love, Magical and Minding.
The Coolmore giant’s son Frankel ended a flawless racing career unbeaten in 14 races, and it was surely appropriate that when Galileo would eventually surrender his champion sire crown, as he did in 2021, it would be to his best son. In recognition of Galileo winning the public vote, his connections will receive a specially commissioned medal designed by Asprey.
Galileo joins Frankie Dettori and Dancing Brave as the ‘Class of 2022’ in the Hall of Fame, and becomes the seventh horse to be inducted after Frankel, Brigadier Gerard, Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Dayjur and Dancing Brave. Dayjur is the only other horse to have been chosen by public vote.