Someone at Coolmore naming a foal Galileo must have been hugely optimistic.  The horse’s namesake is considered to be a polymath, the father of both observational astronomy and the scientific method of inquiry.

In the world of Thoroughbred racehorses, Galileo lived up to the billing.  When he was humanely euthanized last week at age 23, his former trainer Aiden O’Brien said “we will never see the likes of him again.”  No doubt, for the first fifth of the twenty-first century, Galileo was the premier turf sire.

Galileo was royally bred, being by the champion miler Sadler’s Wells, who in turn was by the leading sire of the last half of the twentieth century Northern Dancer.  Galileo’s dam was Urban Sea, a Group 1 winner against colts and geldings, who was by the Mr. Prospector sire Miswaki. 

Galileo won six of eight starts over two years, including the Epsom Derby.  But his most lasting mark came as a sire.  At this writing, he has been champion sire twelve times and his offspring have won 91 Group 1 races.  His son Frankel is widely thought to be one of the greatest racehorses in history and has shown himself to be a sire of champions as well.  Five other sons of Galileo won the Epsom Derby and at least 20 stallions by Galileo have sired Group 1 winners.  If that is not enough, he has proven himself as a superb broodmare sire.

In 2006, I visited Coolmore in Ireland and saw Sadler’s Wells, still vigorous at his advanced age.  I also saw the then 8-year-old Galileo.  The ensuing years would demonstrate that the Northern Dancer-Sadler’s Wells-Galileo line would be DNA gold. Galileo’s sons are well on their way to continuing this prepotency.

In the 1980s, the team of John Magnier, Vincent O’Brien, and Robert Sangster boldly and brilliantly began to pay top dollar at U. S. auctions for yearling colts by Northern Dancer, with an eye toward eventually establishing them as stallions in Europe. Sadler’s Wells, Galileo, and their progeny are proof of the strategy.

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