Unravelling the mystery of Galileo’s ‘failure’ in the Southern Hemisphere

Linton, winner of the G1 Stradbroke Handicap over seven furlongs at Eagle Farm in 2013, is the highest ranking among Galileo’s offspring bred in Australia. Photo: maluaracing.com.au

The Galileo enigma. A Southern Hemisphere disappointment or not? Galileo’s reputation in the Northern Hemisphere is well earned. His achievements there have made him perhaps the outstanding stallion on the planet, a longtime world #1 in the TRC Global Rankings (#2 in September 2018).

He has been champion British and Irish sire eight times (a ninth title has been added since this article was written). In Europe this year, his progeny have won more prize money than the next five stallions on the list put together. Worldwide he tops the G1 earnings earnings list, his total even bettering that of Deep Impact in Japan.

His stakes winner strike rate in the Northern Hemisphere hovers at around 14 percent. With his 57 G1 winners up north, there is no doubt he is one of the all-time greats.

But not in Australia, where he stood at Coolmore Stud’s Hunter Valley base for five seasons. Here he is generally considered a disappointment.

And the figures seem to back that up. While Galileo’s Southern Hemisphere stakes winners-to-runners ratio of around five percent is by no means the statistic of a poorly performed stallion, it is not in the realm of his success elsewhere.

Galileo has had 24 stakes winners in Australasia; of those six were bred in the Northern Hemisphere. The gap between his best European-bred horse - the unbeaten superstar Frankel - and his best performing Australian-bred horse - the sprinter Linton - is a sizeable one (with no disrespect to the latter).

Though among Galileo’s best is the Australian-bred Igugu (see YouTube video above), a four-time G1 winner who earned among several titles that of South African Horse Of The Year. Another to have raced with distinction in that country is the champion 2-year-old filly Mahbooba, out of an Australian Red Ransom mare.

Sydney Cup winner Niwot and Spring Champion Stakes winner Sousa are Galileo’s other local G1 winners.

A nice group of horses, but there is no doubt that Galileo’s record in the Northern Hemisphere far surpasses his in Australasia.



“In the Northern Hemisphere, Galileo was supported by quality mares from day one. Here he at best got the second-tier mares.”
- Nick Williams, of Macedon Lodge, home to several talented imported Galileos

“It has to be the mares he got down here compared to the Northern Hemisphere. There is no other way to explain it.”
 -Troy Corstens, co-trainer of Galileo’s Stradbroke Handicap winner Linton

“The genetic make-up of our broodmare band - there is so much speed tracing back for generations.”
William Inglis’ Jonathan D’Arcy


So let’s take a look at the broodmare sires out of whose daughters Galileo has sired multiple stakes winners. They are:

Air Express, Alysheba, Anabaa, Danehill, Danehill Dancer, Darshaan, Diesis, Dr Fong, Erins Isle, Grand Lodge, Green Desert, Indian Ridge, Intikhab, Kaldoun, Kingmambo, Kris, Kris S, Last Tycoon, Machiavellian, Mark Of Esteem, Mozart, Nashwan, Nureyev, Pennekamp, Pivotal, Rainbow Quest, Red Ransom, Shirley Heights, Silver Hawk, Spectrum, Ri Pekan, Storm Cat, Stravinsky

Of this list, only Danehill had significant numbers of daughters visit Galileo in both hemispheres, not surprising since he was his stud mate at Coolmore.

Frankel is the headliner for the Galileo/Danehill cross in Europe, one that has produced another 39 black-type runners with an outstanding stakes winner ratio of 21.5 percent. Of those 40 stakes winners, three were Australian-bred, the only one successful on Australian soil being the listed winner Banc de Fortune. Galileo served mares by Danehill on around 50 occasions in Australia.

While this cross has been disappointing in this part of the world, it can be said in Galileo’s defence that much of his success in the Northern Hemisphere has been with mares from lines that have had much more influence there than here.

For example, his strike rates with mares by Air Express, Alysheba, Darshaan, Dr Fong, Erins Isle, Indian Ridge, Kingmambo, Kris, Kris S, Mark Of Esteem, Mozart, Nashwan, Pennekamp, Pivotal and Silver Hawk are impressive - but these are not names commonly seen in Australia or New Zealand.

The only broodmare sire to have produced multiple Galileo stakes winners in Australasia is Last Tycoon (Sousa, Saint Minerva, Jacquinot Bay) while mares by Diesis (Sixties Icon/Gallant Tess), Grand Lodge (Sword Fighter/Lightinthenite), Intikhab (Found, Best In The World, Magical Dream/Igugu), Red Ransom (Ard Na Greine/Mahbooba), Stravinsky (Rip Van Winkle, Easter/Sea Galleon) have produced Galileo stakes winners bred in Europe and Australasia.

So did Galileo get more of a chance from his Irish base than from his Australian one? There is no doubt that an Epsom Derby winner - or any winner of a staying race for that matter - garners more respect in Europe. However, Galileo was well supported, serving 720 mares during his five years in Australia, an average of 144 per season.

He served mares by a wide variety of stallions, both sprinting- and staying-bred, though there is no doubt he did better with the latter. He served, for example, mares by sprinting influence Rory’s Jester on around 20 occasions. This cross yielded ten runners, none of whom were stakes-performed.

It’s a similar story with mares by other winners of the Golden Slipper; Galileo was visited by mares by Marscay, Luskin Star, Canny Lad, Catbird, Flying Spur, Danzero, Star Watch, Marauding and Vain. In total, 40 runners and just the one stakes winner, the 2400m listed winner Luvuleo, out of the Marscay mare Luvscay.

When mated with mares by stallions bred for a bit more stamina, Galileo did sire the Australian stakes winners Tanby (dam by Danewin), Sertorius (Encosta de Lago) Niwot (Noble Bijou), Spacecraft (Octagonal), Galizani (Zabeel), Personify (Jade Hunter) and Sea Galleon (Stravinsky).

Meanwhile Linton, Reprisal, Discorsi (from mainly a sprinting family but has the Melbourne Cup winner Silver Knight as his third dam sire), Dance To The Stars and Galizani have staying influence.

The latter, a dual listed winner over 1900m and 2400m, is out of a mare by Zabeel, who you would think, all things being equal, was made for Galileo. Not only is he also a classic stallion, he is out of a mare by Nureyev, 3/4 brother to Galileo’s sire Sadler’s Wells.

However, of the 16 Galileo runners out of Zabeel mares, Galizani is the sole stakes winner.

So, while Galileo was supported by a fair whack of mares by sprinting sires, he did also have a chance with those with some stamina as well. Again he underperformed compared to the stellar job he has done in the Northern Hemisphere.

Of course, looking at broodmare sires is only part of the story and Galileo did stand in the Hunter Valley where breeders have for generations been fine tuning their families for precocious speed.

Success can of course also be about perception. If we don’t compare the Australian Galileo to the European one, he fared well. As Nick Williams noted: “His statistics are pretty similar to a stallion like Northern Meteor, who served a similar number of mares.”

As noted, Galileo served 720 mares in five years. Northern Meteor (who ranks world #118 in TRC Global Rankings) in four seasons served 622. Galileo’s Australian stakes winner ratio sits at 5.8 percent, Northern Meteor’s is 4.02 percent. The latter, however, did have six G1 winners. Galileo, as already discussed, had three.


“In the Northern Hemisphere, Galileo had success with 2-year-olds and trainers in Australian probably believed they were more precocious than they really were. Interestingly it was a similar story with Zabeel early but people persisted and worked out that they needed time. Our training style probably contributed to physically and mentally breaking them.”
- Nick Williams

“The training regimes that most Australian trainers use may not be suitable for the type of horses that Galileo sires.”
- Jonathan D’Arcy

“Trainers here are more inclined to push young horses and maybe they just needed time to mature.”
- David Payne, trainer of Galileo’s dual G2 winner Gallant Tess

“I think they were pushed too soon down under and, when the first crop of 3-year-olds didn’t perform up to expectation, the Australian market went off them.”
- Paul Moroney, international bloodstock agent

“The progeny of Galileo have proven more than capable under Australian conditions in recent years, as the likes of Adelaide and The United States (see YouTube videos below) have shown. I have no doubt in my mind that, if Australian breeders and trainers had the understanding of Galileo and his progeny when he first came to Australia that they do now, we’d be looking at a completely different proposition.”
- Michael Kirwan, Coolmore Australia

“I would think that, as a general rule, the Galileos don’t cope well with being pushed too hard too early. In Australia, we often don’t nurture the animals who need the time to grow up physically and mentally.

“Of course, Galileo has had some exceptional 2-year-olds, but perhaps with Europe’s more relaxed and endurance-based training methods, they are able to keep them from going over the top at a young age.  

“It’s so lovely how they prepare a nice young horse here [at Newmarket]. They’re doing plenty of evens - every day up a hill - but it’s relaxed and they’re not being competitive. Then, towards the end of their 2-year-old year, they will have four to five gallops in pairs or groups on the bridle before going to the races in October/November.

“Trainers will tell the jockeys to flop out of the gates and let them run home on his own steam, no whips. In Australia, on the other hand, we give them two to three trials over unsuitable distances with the sticks up!”
- Michael Kent Jnr, who has worked in stables and ridden in Australia and the UK


“Our 2-year-old racing is much more jump-and-run than in Europe, where most of the horses are bred to run over a mile plus. As a consequence the races are run at a different tempo, which aids horses by stallions like Galileo.”
- Nick Williams

And, as regards to longer contests, Australian races can be sit-and-sprint affairs, as opposed to European races in which the services of a pacemaker can be utilized to ensure a fast race, something that plays into the hands of the stronger, staying-bred horse.

“I think that Galileo’s progeny are better suited to a testing gallop on Europe’s big, undulating courses as opposed to the sit-and-sprint nature of Australia’s tight, turning tracks. To win a race in Europe requires totally different attributes and training. You need to be able to sustain a sprint and often finish the race uphill. At home, a quick burst of speed once you get into the home straight is enough to win the race.”
- Michael Kent Jnr

“My assumption is that his [Galileo’s] progeny are more effective on a soft surface and, as you know, the going gets very hard and firm most of the time here.”
- David Payne

“He is by Galileo, so a wet track won’t bother him,” said Nick Williams in the lead-up to this year’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick, a race in which Macedon Lodge’s Galileo entire The United States finished second on rain affected going. He would go onto G2 success in the Crystal Mile at Moonee Valley in October, the track on that occasion rated slow.

There is not a huge variation in Galileo’s European statistics on dry tracks versus rain-affected tracks, but of course Australian tracks tend to be firmer overall.

Representing his father Dermot with Galileo’s Choice in the 2012 Melbourne Cup, Mark Weld told the press: “What you would call a good track would be too quick for all the European horses.”


“Luckily he has sons and daughters with the credentials to help him enhance his legacy in Australasia over time.”
- Michael Kirwan

W.S Cox Plate winner Adelaide served 98 mares in his debut season last spring, while Teofilo was back this year due to demand and his son Kermadec is another popular member of the Darley roster.

Meanwhile, the Australian stud book has 128 of Galileo’s daughters registered as active broodmares.

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