Arguably the greatest sire the Sport of King's has ever seen, and a phenomenal competitor in his brief, thrilling racing career, GALILEO, at age 23, was euthanized early Saturday, July 10th, 2021 due to a debilitating injury.
GALILEO's highlight wins in his racing career included victories in the 2001 Epsom Derby and 2001 King George Stakes at Ascot. He was born in March 1998, as the son of SADLER'S WELLS out of URBAN SEA by MISWAKI. His racing career concluded on October 27th, 2001, totaling 6 wins and 1 second from 8 total starts, and earnings of $2,245,373. Yet these numbers do not come close to revealing the significance of his achievement during and after his racing career.
"It is a very sad day, but we all feel incredibly fortunate to have had Galileo here at Coolmore," said Coolmore's John Magnier, who co-bred and raced Galileo and stood him at stud.
"I would like to thank the dedicated people who looked after him so well all along the way. He was always a very special horse to us and he was the first Derby winner we had in Ballydoyle in the post M V O'Brien era. I would also like to thank Aidan and his team for the brilliant job they did with him. The effect he is having on the breed through his sons and daughters will be a lasting legacy and his phenomenal success really is unprecedented."
GALILEO's greatest accomplishment as a stallion perhaps was siring the mighty FRANKEL, who is considered by fans around the globe as Racing's greatest horse of all time. Some of GALILEO's other, more notable progeny include: MAGICAL, LOVE, MOGUL, WALDGEIST, ULYSSES, FOUND, MAGICIAN, NATHANIEL RIP VAN WINKLE. Just today he sired the winner of the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park with BOLSHOI BALLET.
"He was unique and we will never see the likes of him again," GALILEO's trainer Aiden O'Brien said. "The determination he put into his stock was something else—that's what made him different.
"You would train a lot of horses, different types of horses who all have different traits, but very few of them, in fact none of them, put that mental trait into their horses the way Galileo did. What he put into their minds, that genuineness, was out of this world."
GALILEO's racing career was an exhilarating experience. He was lightly raced as he was vigorously challenged. He won European Champion Three-year-old Colt in 2001 and swept the Epsom Derby (G1), Irish Derby (G1), and King George VI & Q Elizabeth Stakes (G1) in the same three-year-old season.
Mick Kinane rode GALILEO to five of his six career wins, and says the horse is up there among the best he has ever ridden. Kinane told Racing Post:
"It's the passing of a great. Even my daughter got emotional when she heard he was dead. That shows how much he meant to her. He was a big part of my life in every way and it's sad he didn't get to live it out a bit longer.
"The Derby was very smooth—there was never a moment's bother from the minute we left the gates. We were always in control of what we were doing. It's testament to the horse that it went like that as it very seldom happens like that in those big races when you're on one everyone expects to win."
Kinane continued: "He was an easy horse to ride. He could take a hold in the early days, and it took him a while to settle him initially as he was a very enthusiastic horse. He was always eager to please and was a beautifully balanced horse and very easy to be a part of.
"When a horse can win two Derbies and a King George—very few 3-year-olds can do that. He has been one of the best I've ever ridden for sure."
My memories of Galileo
I'll never forget GALILEO's bouts with FANTASTIC LIGHT. They traded blows in July and September of 2001, each with one win over the other.
GALILEO was not the largest horse in the paddock, but booted a turn-of-foot that was anything but small.
In the 2001 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1), the undefeated three-year-old GALILEO was pitted against premiere older-horse FANTASTIC LIGHT, who was in terrific form leading up to the race. FANTASTIC LIGHT had just captured the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) and Prince of Wales's Stakes (G1).
The stage was set. It was a battle for top honors, racing to see who was the King of Europe—and the race did NOT disappoint!
It was an unforgettable stretch duel. You can hear the ooh's and ahh's from the crowd, as GALILEO quickened for home, spurting clear for only a moment, as FANTASTIC LIGHT came thundering down the center with his own rally.
But the Racing Gods reserved that day for GALILEO's signature win, as he repelled FANTASTIC LIGHT and edged clear to win by two lengths. It was another thrilling display of talent—a characteristic that would follow GALILEO off to stud and ultimately into Racing's history books.
"Great horses come along very seldom and I think this is a great horse," Kinane said after the 2001 King George Stakes.
Rest in Peace to the World-revered GALILEO, truly one of Racing's Greats!
Watch and enjoy the video below.