The peerless Galileo in full flight
The peerless Galileo in full flight

Horse racing analysis: Galileo and the future for Coolmore following his death

Adam Houghton discusses the huge influence Galileo has had for Coolmore before examining the credentials of his potential successors following his death in July.

A tour of Coolmore Stud in Fethard, County Tipperary is a wonderfully enriching experience for any Flat racing fan, the site being home to so many champions from years gone by. To drive the point home, simply check out the stud’s roster for 2021 which counted 16 stallions and the winners of 44 Group/Grade 1 races between them.

Of course, winning top-level races on the Flat doesn’t guarantee a long and successful career in the stallion ranks and, just at Coolmore alone, the list of high-achieving racehorses who were moved on after failing to make the cut at stud is a lengthy one indeed. Think Hawk Wing, Timeform’s highest-rated horse trained by Aidan O’Brien who now resides in South Korea, or Rip Van Winkle, a multiple Group 1 winner for the same yard who had long been packed off to New Zealand by the time of his death in August 2020.

It’s a ruthless business but one that John Magnier and his associates are well versed in having spent the last few decades assembling a bloodstock empire with no equal anywhere in the world, notably standing record-breaking sires such as Sadler’s Wells, Danehill and, most recently, Galileo.

Galileo wins the Derby
Galileo wins the Derby

A top-class racehorse in his own right with wins in the Derby, Irish Derby and King George, Galileo was crowned the leading sire in Britain and Ireland for the twelfth time (and eleventh in a row) in 2020, while Bolshoi Ballet’s victory in the Belmont Derby earlier this year took Galileo’s number of individual Group/Grade 1 winners to 92, an all-time record previously held by Danehill (84).

It’s virtually impossible to articulate just how important Galileo has been to the Coolmore operation and the size of the void that his death in July will leave behind.

The loss of Galileo will perhaps be most keenly felt by O’Brien, with whom the cream of the crop from the Coolmore breeding empire is entrusted at Ballydoyle. The annual intake would typically include a whole host of sons and daughters of Galileo who would go on to taste success in pattern company, a trend which has become stronger with just about every passing year since Galileo had his first runners back in 2005.

From rising star to Coolmore kingpin

Amongst the 92 individual Group/Grade 1 winners by Galileo, 53 of them recorded at least one of their top-level victories whilst being trained at Ballydoyle. The globetrotting Highland Reel and the mares Minding and Magical are the standouts with seven Group 1 wins apiece, leaving them behind only 10-time Group 1 winner Frankel – trained by Sir Henry Cecil, of course – amongst the most successful sons or daughters of Galileo at the elite level.

Interestingly, only three of the 20 individual Group/Grade 1 winners from Galileo’s first five crops raced for O’Brien, namely Soldier of Fortune, Rip Van Winkle and Cape Blanco. That suggests that, for all the talent Galileo demonstrated on the racecourse, Coolmore didn’t immediately recognise that they had a behemoth stallion of the future on their hands. Overall, 14 different trainers won top-level races with sons or daughters of Galileo from those early crops, far from the monopoly on Galileo’s best progeny that Coolmore have had in more recent years.

Timeform Race Passes offer

By way of comparison, Galileo’s last six crops (up to and including the two-year-olds who hit the track in 2016) have featured 30 individual Group/Grade 1 winners and 24 of them have been trained by O’Brien. The other six have all been successful for different trainers, namely Andre Fabre (Waldgeist), Charlie Appleby (Line of Duty), Dermot Weld (Search For A Song), David Hayes/Tom Dabernig (Cape of Good Hope), Arnaud Delacour (Magic Attitude) and Donnacha O’Brien (Shale).

The 24 trained by O’Brien include 14 horses who won at least one European classic, including two Derby winners, Anthony Van Dyck (2019) and Serpentine (2020). Added to earlier wins for New Approach (2008), Ruler of The World (2013) and Australia (2014), Galileo died as the most successful sire in the history of the Epsom classic.

The offspring of Galileo have won 45 classic races in Britain and Ireland in total and, who knows, there might still be a couple more to add to that tally over the next few seasons. Galileo covered 45 mares in 2021 and, though likely to be small in number, it’s worth pointing out that his final crop of two-year-olds still won’t hit the track until 2024, with two more to come before then.

It goes without saying that Coolmore will have to rely on other stallions to start producing the results at the highest level, though. Indeed, following the death of Galileo, one can’t help but mull over the question of what Ballydoyle and Coolmore would have achieved – and what they might achieve in the future – without him?

Trainer Aidan O'Brien: has a star on his hands in Luxembourg
Aidan O'Brien has enjoyed unparalleled success with Galileo's progeny

Galileo's influence at Ballydoyle in numbers

O’Brien has now won 270 Group 1 races in Britain and Ireland during his training career and, remarkably, 87 of them (around 32%) have been won with progeny of Galileo. That figure is more than double those of Sadler’s Wells and Danehill, who provided O’Brien with the winners of 32 and 31 Group 1 races in Britain, respectively.

It’s a similar story when comparing the data for O’Brien and the winners he has saddled in all group races in Britain and Ireland. O’Brien has won 707 group races and 236 of those wins (around 33%) have been achieved with horses by Galileo. Once again, Sadler’s Wells and Danehill are next best by that measure with 62 and 61, respectively.

Danehill died in a paddock accident at Coolmore Stud in 2003, while Sadler’s Wells was retired from stud duties in 2008 and died three years later. As a result, Galileo soon had his pick of the many blue-blooded mares at Coolmore and, having taken time to study what type of mare he worked best with, Magnier and co later went out of their way to recruit other suitable candidates at the sales.

Having also limited the number of opportunities for competitors to utilise his services, Coolmore have scrupulously managed Galileo’s career at stud and his results in the last decade, particularly in the last six years or so, have rewarded them in spades.

Frankel, the highest-rated Flat horse in Timeform’s history, was Galileo’s poster boy at the start of the last decade, but the regularity with which Galileo has churned out Group/Grade 1 winners for the Ballydoyle/Coolmore axis in more recent years is arguably even more impressive.

Galileo The Great
Galileo The Great

The second column in the table above shows the number of Group 1 races that Galileo’s progeny have won for O’Brien in Britain and Ireland in every season since 2016. Similarly, the third column shows the total number of all group races that Galileo’s progeny have won for O’Brien in Britain and Ireland during the same period.

2016 and 2017 were the most prolific campaigns for Galileo and O’Brien on both counts. In the space of just two years, Ballydoyle won a total of 31 Group 1 races and 68 group races with Galileo’s progeny in Britain and Ireland. O’Brien was crowned the champion trainer in Britain in both years and, in 2017, he amassed £8,335,028 in total prize money – over £5.2 million of that haul was earned by Galileo’s progeny alone.

O’Brien also set a new record in 2017 with 28 Group/Grade 1 winners worldwide, beating the previous best of 25 set by Bobby Frankel in 2003. Only eight of those Group 1 wins in Britain and Ireland were achieved with horses by a stallion other than Galileo, including four wins for horses by War Front and two wins for horses by Scat Daddy.

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The final two columns of the previous table show how stallions other than Galileo have performed for O’Brien in Britain and Ireland in every season since 2016, first the number of winners they produced in Group 1 races and then the total number of winners they produced in all group races.

It’s significant that in four of the six years Galileo has provided Ballydoyle with more Group 1 wins in Britain and Ireland than all the other stallions combined. That statement is also true of O’Brien’s total number of wins in all group races in five of the six years, with 2021 being the only exception, perhaps a sign of a change in attitude at Coolmore with a view to the future without Galileo.

This season O’Brien has won nine Group 1 races in Britain and Ireland, two with horses by Galileo (Empress Josephine in the Irish 1000 Guineas and Love in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes) and seven with horses by other stallions. It’s closer in terms of all group races in Britain and Ireland, with 10 wins for Galileo and 15 for the rest.

Whether the sources of the other winners will give Coolmore much cause for encouragement is open to debate. Japanese superstar Deep Impact has given them four group-race wins in Britain and Ireland this year – all with the very smart filly Snowfall – but he died in 2019 and access to him at his base at Shadai Stallion Station would have been rather limited, anyway.

Snowfall wins the Yorkshire Oaks under Ryan Moore
Snowfall has been a star performer for Ballydoyle in 2021

Similar comments apply to Siyouni, who is still alive and well but resides at the Aga Khan’s Haras de Bonneval in France. Siyouni is the sire of Ballydoyle’s top-class three-year-old St Mark’s Basilica, who has won four Group 1 races in 2021, including two in Britain and Ireland, the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown and Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

Concert Hall won the Weld Park Stakes at the Curragh recently, a first group-race success O’Brien has registered with a son or daughter of Dubawi, the leading British-based sire for much of the last decade. Once again, however, Dubawi is owned by a leading competitor to Magnier in the shape of Sheikh Mohammed, so he’s obviously not a long-term solution following the loss of Galileo.

1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth is by former Coolmore Stud resident Zoffany, who sadly died in January, while recent Cheveley Park Stakes winner Tenebrism is by Caravaggio, who was initially based in Ireland before being moved to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in the US for the 2021 breeding season.

The potential heirs to the throne

That means that, out of the 16 stallions listed on the Coolmore Stud roster for 2021, only two others have emulated Galileo by providing O’Brien with winners in pattern company in Britain and Ireland this season, namely Camelot and Australia.

Camelot has given O’Brien only one such winner in 2021, but the horse in question, Luxembourg, arguably has the potential to be his sire’s best progeny yet. An impressive winner of the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh recently, Luxembourg now heads the ante-post betting for next year’s Derby and could test his top-level credentials in a race such as the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster before the end of the season.

Camelot, who won the 2000 Guineas and Derby back in 2012, is already the sire of eight individual Group/Grade 1 winners worldwide. That list includes the ill-fated Santa Barbara, a dual Grade 1 winner in the US earlier this year, and the classic winners Latrobe (2018 Irish Derby) and Even So (2020 Irish Oaks).

Camelot winning the Investec Derby
Camelot is one of the up-and-coming sires at Coolmore

Australia has provided O’Brien with five wins in pattern company in Britain and Ireland this season – two for Broome (Alleged Stakes and Mooresbridge Stakes), two for Point Lonsdale (Tyros Stakes and Futurity Stakes) and one for Order of Australia (Minstrel Stakes).

Order of Australia had previously won the Breeders' Cup Mile in 2020, while Broome added to his group-race wins in Ireland earlier this season with a first top-level success in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in July. In total, Australia is the sire of four individual Group/Grade 1 winners worldwide having also struck with Galileo Chrome in last year's St Leger and Mare Australis in this year's Prix Ganay.

In 2021, Australia and Camelot have been represented by their fourth and fifth crops of two-year-olds, respectively. Given that Galileo’s first five crops featured 20 individual Group/Grade 1 winners, both horses clearly have a long way to go before either of them can be considered the heir apparent to the Coolmore throne, though they can at least be expected to receive bigger and better books of mares now that Galileo is no longer around.

The busiest stallion at Coolmore Stud in 2021 was new recruit Wootton Bassett. His acquisition from Haras d’Etreham in France last summer was a big statement of intent from his new owners who, in hindsight, were clearly getting their affairs in order knowing that a future without Galileo wasn’t too far away. Wootton Bassett is also a suitable outcross for the many daughters of Galileo in the Coolmore broodmare band – he covered 61 such mares this year, including the Group/Grade 1 winners Clemmie, Found and Was.

Almanzor is the highest-rated runner by Wootton Bassett to date

Wootton Bassett produced four individual Group/Grade 1 winners – Almanzor, Audarya, Incarville and Wooded – during his time at Haras d’Etreham despite starting his stallion career at a basement fee and covering small books of mare.

It begs the question of what Wootton Bassett might achieve now that he has the might of Coolmore behind him? He will certainly have plenty of ammunition to fire having covered 244 mares in his first year, with Alexandrova, Peeping Fawn and The Fugue – the winners of 11 Group 1 events between them during their racing careers – standing out even in a glittering book.

St Mark's the new star on the block

Wootton Bassett is likely to be similarly well supported when the 2022 breeding season comes around, though he’ll face competition by then from a certain St Mark’s Basilica, who was described by O’Brien as “possibly the best horse we have ever had in Ballydoyle” when his retirement was announced just 16 days after he had completed a Group 1 five-timer in the Irish Champion.

“He’s the most exciting prospect we’ve retired from Ballydoyle since his late grandfather Galileo,” added Coolmore’s David O’Loughlin. “European Champion Two-Year-Old, the highest-rated three-year-old in the world, a 1,300,000 guineas yearling by a top sire in Siyouni, a half-brother to another brilliant horse in Magna Grecia, both out of Galileo’s group-winning two-year-old Cabaret. He has everything and he’ll get terrific support from his owners’ broodmare band too.”

Snowfall has already been earmarked as one of the big names likely to feature in St Mark’s Basilica’s first book, with plenty of others sure to follow. Siyouni is still unproven as a sire of sires, though the 2020 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Sottsass – Siyouni’s second highest-rated son with Timeform – covered his first book numbering 132 mares at Coolmore in 2021, including the dam of Laurens, the best daughter of Siyouni to date.

St Mark’s Basilica is sure to be given every chance of making a success of his second career but, as we’ve already discussed, it’s not a given that a top-class racehorse will be able to pass that ability on to their offspring on a consistent basis.

St Mark's Basilica had these Ballydoyle horses ahead of him on Timeform figures

It’s striking that, of the nine horses trained by O’Brien who achieved a higher Timeform rating than St Mark’s Basilica, only Galileo can be considered to have made a significant impact at stud. Rock of Gibraltar arguably has the best record amongst the rest having produced 16 individual Group/Grade 1 winners worldwide, including the high-class sprinter Society Rock, while So You Think is the sire of seven top-level winners in the Southern Hemisphere.

That should serve as yet another reminder of the phenomenon that Galileo was, one of the best racehorses of the twenty-first century who went on to become arguably the greatest stallion of the modern era.

No less than 20 of Galileo’s sons have sired Group/Grade 1 winners on the Flat and it’s perhaps fitting that, in the year of Galileo’s death, he is set to be defeated in the race to be crowned leading sire in Britain and Ireland by his best son, Frankel. It will also be the first time since 1989 that the leading sire in Britain and Ireland hasn’t been based at Coolmore Stud after the exploits of previous title winners Sadler’s Wells (1990, 1992-2004), Caerleon (1991), Danehill (2005-2007) and Danehill Dancer (2009). Galileo was the leading sire in 2008 and in every other year since 2010.

Frankel looks sure to continue Galileo’s legacy all being well, but it remains to be seen whether Coolmore can produce another sire to challenge him for top honours in the immediate future. After all, only two other stallions in the top 10 in Britain and Ireland this year stood at Coolmore, namely No Nay Never (ninth) and Australia (tenth). Camelot (seventeenth) and Wootton Bassett (forty-fifth) are even further down the list, though it’s worth pointing out that the last-named has made the top 50 despite having fewer runners than all bar Deep Impact.

The small steps Wootton Bassett has made at the top table could soon become giant strides with the added support provided by Coolmore. Whether he or St Mark’s Basilica can go even some of the way to filling the shoes voided by Galileo is another question altogether, however, one that we will await the answer to in keen anticipation.

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