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Friday, 18 January, 2019

No need to panic about Galileo's quieter than usual year

Martin Stevens looks at the Coolmore phenomenon's season so far

Galileo: sire of 'only' four Group 1 winners in Britain and Ireland so far this season
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We have become so accustomed to Galileo churning out one top-class talent after another that our expectations for what he can achieve have been elevated extraordinarily, and perhaps a little unfairly, high.

So much so that the Coolmore phenomenon exists on an altogether different astral plane and what might be considered a disappointing performance for him would be sufficient for another stallion to be hailed as the second coming.

Nevertheless, Galileo's results as a sire in his own right in 2018 have – only by those impossibly high standards – been a little underwhelming thus far; admittedly a counter-intuitive statement to make after he drew level with his own father Sadler's Wells' total of 73 elite winners when Flag Of Honour took the Irish St Leger on Sunday.

For example, the margin of his supremacy over closest pursuer Dubawi at the head of the British and Irish sire standings is only around £2 million. Deploying the word 'only' in this instance might seem perverse, but bear in mind that by the end of 2017 his progeny prize-money haul of just under £12m was a cool £8m in excess of the next-best figure belonging to Dark Angel.

Furthermore, Galileo has fielded the winners of only – another use of that adverb that would be wholly inappropriate if applied to any of his peers – four Group 1 contests in Britain and Ireland up to the St Leger this year. They are Rhododendron (Lockinge Stakes), Forever Together (Oaks), Kew Gardens (St Leger) and Flag Of Honour.

Flag Of Honour: made it 73 elite winners as a sire for Galileo

Compare with last year, when the tally was 17 at the same stage, including five in the space of the week between Irish Champions Weekend and the St Leger, during which Capri and Order Of St George completed the Anglo-Irish St Leger double and Decorated Knight, Happily and Hydrangea earned laurels at Leopardstown and the Curragh.

To give a glimpse behind the curtain, we at the Racing Post prepared our coverage of Galileo's landmark 73rd Group 1 winner after Clemmie became number 70 with her thrilling triumph in the Cheveley Park Stakes last September, believing the feat to be just around the corner. It took nearly a year for the roll of honour to grow by three.

How to explain this? First of all, we must accept that Galileo is perfectly entitled to display varying degrees of dominance and it might just be that a remarkably bountiful year in 2017 has been followed by an unusually leaner season to effect a jarringly stark juxtaposition.

As recently as 2015, Galileo had recorded five Group 1 winners in Britain and Ireland up to the St Leger, and in 2013 there were just two in the same period. But 2016 was another beanfeast, with 12 recorded between those seasonal goalposts. 

We might also remember that the supersire's fortunes are entwined with those of Aidan O'Brien, who has the largest share of his progeny in his care. O'Brien has sent out eight Group 1 winners in Britain and Ireland this year, compared with 17 up to the same point in 2017, the difference due in part to a virus that swept through Ballydoyle in recent months.

Galileo and O'Brien have also had some near misses in top-level company this year. Clemmie, who promised so much in her Cheveley Park Stakes victory last September, has not quite delivered at three but was an encouraging third in the Matron Stakes on Saturday; wide-margin Ribblesdale Stakes winner Magic Wand was beaten a head into second in the Prix Vermeille a day later; and Gustav Klimt has posted five top-four finishes in Group 1s.

Aidan O'Brien: stable form in 2018 has been adversely affected by a virus

There are other examples, but the best stallion and trainer in the world do not need excuses made for them.

Galileo can also be counted as something of a victim of his own success in that, having flourished as a sire of sires, he now finds himself in competition against those sons who are supplying their own Group 1 winners with regularity – the likes of Frankel, Nathaniel, New Approach and Teofilo.

His daughters are also injecting class into matings with other stallions. In this respect, two of O'Brien's top-level winners this year who are not by Galileo, his main source of stock for nigh on a decade, are perhaps harbingers of the complexion of future Ballydoyle strings.

Saxon Warrior is by one international superstar sire in Deep Impact, while US Navy Flag is by another in War Front, and both are out of Group 1-winning Galileo mares in Maybe and Misty For Me.

Indeed, the past week of racing action has demonstrated just how influential Galileo has become: there were Group scorers by Frankel, Nathaniel, Teofilo and even the largely disappointing Cape Blanco, while paternal grandsons Dawn Approach and Havana Gold were on the mark with big winners on Irish Champions Weekend in impressive Group 2-winning juvenile Madhmoon and Flying Five victor Havana Grey respectively.

Galileo's daughters were represented at the weekend by Woodbine Grade 1 winner Fog Of War – bred on the heavily mined nick with War Front that also yielded US Navy Flag – and Japanese Grade 2 winner Cantabile, who is by Deep Impact and so bred on the cross responsible for Saxon Warrior, runner-up in the Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday.

Galileo's quieter than usual year might also be ascribed to the resurgence of Godolphin, fuelled by the brilliance of Dubawi.

Two races this weekend neatly encapsulated the renewed rivalry between the two powerhouses and their pivotal sires, as progeny of Dubawi carrying the royal blue relegated Coolmore-owned offspring of Galileo to second in both the National Stakes and Prix Vermeille, with Quorto beating Anthony Van Dyck in the two-year-old contest and Kitesurf taking the scalp of Magic Wand in France.

However, for all the reasons why Galileo might find it difficult to distance his rivals in the stallion standings in the near future – the competition from his own descendants, a back-to-form Godolphin and so on – you would not put it past him to finish £8 million clear in the table again.

Books of 165, 178 and 158 mares in the last three seasons, chock-full as ever with Group-winning mares and dams of celebrities, should cement his position as champion sire well into the next decade.

Other stallion owners would give their right arm for covering statistics like those, and for a season for one of their own charges as 'disappointing' as the current one has been for Galileo.

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Galileo can also be counted as something of a victim of his own success, in that he finds himself in competition against his stallion sons
E.W. Terms
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