Coolmore success founded on a broodmare band of uncommon excellence
Martin Stevens looks at the unsung heroines of the all-conquering operation
This article was first published in March 2018
It is rightly acknowledged that the greatest sire and trainer of our times, Galileo and Aidan O'Brien, operate in symbiosis with one party benefiting from the phenomenal powers of the other and vice versa.
More than half of the Group or Grade 1 winners supplied by Galileo to date – 36 out of 70 – were sent out by O'Brien, while no fewer than 18 of the Ballydoyle maestro's record-breaking 28 top-level successes in 2017 came from progeny of Coolmore's wonder stallion.
It is an exceptionally fruitful equine-human double act, surpassing even the advantageous associations between Jean-Luc Lagardere and Linamix or Ken Ramsey and Kitten's Joy.
FIVE OF THE BEST IN COOLMORE'S BROODMARE BAND
16yo b m Danehill-Circles Of Gold (Marscay)
Proving Coolmore will go to any lengths to source suitable concubines for Galileo, Hveger was imported from Australia. Her appeal was obvious, as a Group 1-placed sister to the prolific Elvstroem and half-sister to Haradasun who had already produced the Group 1-placed Valdemoro to Fairy King, a brother of Galileo's sire Sadler's Wells. Galileo and Hveger clicked to produce the heroic Highland Reel and Classic-placed Idaho, while the mating has also produced juvenile and yearling colts.
9yo b m Galileo-Sumora (Danehill)
Champion two-year-old filly and 1,000 Guineas third Maybe has a pedigree that is among the most problematic for Coolmore to mate: by Galileo, out of a Danehill mare. Hence the operation has had to think internationally with her. Her first two foals, the Listed-placed Pavlenko and Racing Post Trophy winner Saxon Warrior, are by the great Japanese sire Deep Impact, and her yearling colt is by Kentucky-based Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
10yo b m Storm Cat-Airwave (Air Express)
Blisteringly fast, just like her dam, Meow was a neck second in the Queen Mary Stakes and won the Listed Grangecon Stud Stakes, having raced only over the minimum trip and at two. A fine advert for sending sprinters to Galileo, she has produced to him last year's dual Guineas hero Churchill and Cheveley Park Stakes scorer Clemmie – the sire's first Group 1 winner over six furlongs. Her two-year-old colt by Galileo is called Blenheim Palace and she also has a yearling colt by the sire.
Misty For Me
10yo b m Galileo-Butterfly Cove (Storm Cat)
Coolmore's first Group 1-winning Galileo filly of their own, Misty For Me neatly tells the story of the operation's search for worthy outcross sires. Her first foal, the Grade 3-winning filly Cover Song, was by Fastnet Rock, and she has since been matched with War Front, with the first two matings resulting in last year's multiple Group 1 winners Roly Poly and US Navy Flag. The mare has a two-year-old filly and yearling colt by War Front to follow.
13yo br m Storm Cat-Mariah's Storm (Rahy)
The sister to Giant's Causeway won the Cherry Hinton Stakes for Coolmore, and now must rank as the world's most valuable broodmare with all her first five foals having won Group races and three of those – Gleneagles, Happily and Marvellous – having struck at the highest level. The other two, Coolmore and Taj Mahal, were Group 1-placed. All are by Galileo; she has no two-year-old but a yearling colt by the sire.
But there is a third leg of the stool that perhaps does not get quite the attention it deserves and most certainly should not be underestimated: that is the extraordinary quality contained in the Coolmore broodmare band, replete as it is with Group 1 winners, Group 1 producers or close relations to Group 1 animals.
Looking at the statistics above in a different light, 29 of those 70 elite winners by Galileo are out of mares owned wholly or in partnership by Coolmore or entities closely associated with them, while 13 of the 16 horses who contributed to O'Brien's record haul of 2017 were produced by the breeding powerhouse or personalities who work within it.
Moreover, among the colts with Classic aspirations this season housed at Ballydoyle are Coolmore homebreds Delano Roosevelt, Flag Of Honour, Gustav Klimt, Kenya, Saxon Warrior, The Pentagon and US Navy Flag. All are either by Galileo or out of his daughters.
In an explicit illustration of the pre-eminence of the organisation's broodmare band, it is also responsible for the O'Brien-trained fillies who feature in the first three in the betting for the 1,000 Guineas – Clemmie and Happily, Group 1 winners by Galileo, and September, the Group 1-placed daughter of Deep Impact.
Many of the better established Coolmore matriarchs are daughters of the mighty Danehill and his champion sire son Danehill Dancer, or Storm Cat, the Kentucky-based klondike the operation heavily mined with mixed rewards. Some 13 of the 29 Group or Grade 1 winners John Magnier and his associates have bred from Galileo are out of mares by those three late stallions alone.
Their number has been supplemented by often eye-wateringly expensive breeding-stock purchases. There are the mares who had produced Group 1 winners by Galileo that Coolmore had bought rather than bred themselves, such as Looking Back, the dam of Rip Van Winkle, or Sumora, the dam of Maybe; or the high-class racemares, more often than not sprinters and milers, with seven figures paid at auction for each of Marsha, Quiet Reflection, Tepin and Tiggy Wiggy and big sums presumably given privately for the likes of Margot Did and Mecca's Angel.
Connoisseurs of middle-distance and staying racing, Coolmore have also splashed out on stouter mares to place in Galileo's harem – the dams of Harzand and Mukhadram, for instance. But it appears to be conventional wisdom these days that it is faster types who best suit the perennial champion sire or, more to the point probably, have a better chance of producing offspring who conform to what is deemed, rightly or wrongly, to be commercially desirable.
The practice of sending speedier mares to Galileo was reinforced by the emergence of Frankel – out of Kind, a Listed winner over five and six furlongs – in Galileo's sixth crop and the launch of the speed gene test by Equinome, which claimed to identify the optimum distances of horses and what predispositions they would pass on to the next generation, at around the same time.
The Coolmore broodmare band is now in a fascinating state of flux. Already loaded with those daughters of Danehill and Storm Cat and their stallion sons, and those blue-chip mares bought specifically to be served by Galileo, it has welcomed an influx of fillies and mares by the superstar sire, many the results of those matings.
Among the best are Group 1 winners Alice Springs, Ballydoyle, Curvy, Found, Maybe, Minding, Misty For Me, Seventh Heaven, Together, Together Forever, Was and Winter. That is only the tip of the iceberg as there will of course be many more beautifully bred Galileo mares with less polished racing records, or who were even unraced, but whose pedigrees make them fine breeding prospects.
That plentiful supply of Galileo mares, along with those by Galileo's sire Sadler's Wells and paternal half-brother Montjeu, presents Coolmore with a puzzle whose solution will determine the future fortunes of the stud.
Urgently needed are proven, top-class sires without the ubiquitous Sadler's Wells or Danehill close-up in their pedigrees. That is why we enter the Flat season in the curious position of having a colt with a JPN suffix – Saxon Warrior, by Japan's champion sire Deep Impact out of Galileo's Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Maybe – as the 2,000 Guineas favourite.
Deep Impact, along with Australian shuttler Fastnet Rock and Kentucky-based War Front – sire of reigning champion two-year-old US Navy Flag, who is out of four-time Group 1 winner Misty For Me – have been Coolmore's preferred outcrosses for their Galileo mares in recent years. But with Deep Impact and War Front out of their ownership, access to them is limited.
Scat Daddy, who stood at Coolmore's Ashford Stud in Kentucky, surely would have been extensively quarried had he not died before he fully showed his hand as the great sire we now know him to be.
However, the many daughters of Galileo who are at the root of the dilemma are also the cornerstone of the stud's long-term prosperity.
The Coolmore breeding programme can expect to reap the rewards of those mares for several more equine generations, imbued as they are with the qualities the masterful sire is renowned for passing on: sheer class, will to win, mental fortitude, durability and versatility.
And so the mutually beneficial relationship between trainer and top-class stock promises to endure at Ballydoyle and Coolmore. The progeny of those Galileo mares, whatever sire they happen to be by, will have the assistance of being conditioned by a trainer of superlative talents in O'Brien, and O'Brien will have his job made that bit easier by having such impeccable raw material to work with.