Galileo, one of the greatest sires in the history of the thoroughbred, has died at the age of 23.

In a statement released by Coolmore, it was confirmed that ‘Galileo was put to sleep earlier today on humane grounds owing to a chronic, non-responsive, debilitating injury to the left fore foot’.

The son of Sadler’s Wells casts an almighty presence over the breed, whether in terms of production or his evolving legacy as a sire of sires or broodmare sire. There are the 91 Group or Grade 1 winners and 12 British and Irish sires championships, one of them secured in 2017 with an incredible total close to £12 million. Unsurprisingly, he is again a major player for this year’s race, with currently only his son Frankel in front of him, and it might not be long until he is celebrated as the most successful championship sire of all time ahead of his sire Sadler’s Wells.

“It is a very sad day,” said John Magnier, “but we all feel incredibly fortunate to have had Galileo here at Coolmore. 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, of course, was a brilliant performer for the Coolmore partners and Aidan O’Brien. He was bred to be good as a Sadler’s Wells son of the Tsui family’s Arc heroine Urban Sea and in possession of a panther-like stride, he lived up to those lofty expectations, becoming his trainer’s first Derby winner under Mick Kinane back in 2001 before sweeping the Irish equivalent and King George.

Galileo forges clear under Mick Kinane to win the 2001 Derby.

He retired to Coolmore Stud in 2002 at a fee of Ir£50,000 and went on to forge an almighty legacy. Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Innocent Air set the ball rolling by landing the 2005 Washington Singer Stakes to become his first stakes winner and the following spring there was a first Classic winner in the form of Nightime in the Irish 1,000 Guineas; how fitting it was that a record-breaking 85th winner at the top level should arrive last year in the very same race courtesy of Peaceful.

In the years since then, Galileo has dominated every aspect of the European scene. He is the most successful Derby stallion in history as the sire of five winners. As is typical of his sire line, his progeny progress well and tend to stay effectively. Yet send him a fast mare and the ability is there to reward the breeder far more effectively than Sadler’s Wells did. In that, he has sired numerous high-class two-year-olds, an early example being the unbeaten champion Teofilo, a member of his second crop who set in motion that fruitful relationship between the stallion and Jim Bolger. New Approach, Galileo’s first Derby winner, followed for the same partnership only a year later.

Aidan O’Brien has often spoken admiringly of his progeny’s mental and physical soundness. The typical Galileo is a genuine horse that often thrives with racing. Naturally, success has come to run hand in hand with Ballydoyle with no fewer than 53 Group or Grade 1 winners saddled by O’Brien. It’s an immense list, consisting of the Derby winners Ruler Of The World, Australia, Anthony Van Dyck and Serpentine, and also of the top two-year-olds Churchill, Gleneagles and Minding, all of whom developed into Classic-winning milers at three. Others, such as Found, Highland Reel, Order Of St George and Magical, showcased Galileo at his finest, being durable, sound and top-class animals over an extended period of time.

This year, it has been business as usual, with Empress Josephine and Joan Of Arc adding to his Classic haul with victories in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Prix de Diane and last year’s standout filly Love making a successful return in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Yet the finest is the one that got away – Frankel. Beautifully handled by Sir Henry Cecil, the flamboyant Juddmonte homebred swept through 14 races unbeaten, notably the Dewhurst Stakes, 2,000 Guineas. St James’s Palace Stakes, Juddmonte International and QIPCO Champion Stakes, and is now well established as one of Europe’s premier sires; he has really come of age this year as the sire of both the Epsom and Irish Derby winners in Adayar and Hurricane Lane and only on Friday, was represented by his 17th winner at the top level, Snow Lantern.

Frankel: the best sired by Galileo during his remarkable career. Photo – George Selwyn

Galileo’s legacy continues to grow by the year thanks to a deep array of sons at stud. As outlined, Frankel is in the midst of an outstanding season and leads the way among a group of over 20 sons to have sired Group 1 winners. Others range from the Darley stalwarts Teofilo and New Approach to the Coolmore-based Australia and Newsells Park Stud’s Nathaniel, sire of Enable. Another son, Frankel’s Group 1-winning brother Noble Mission, even sired a Grade 1 winner on the dirt in Code Of Honor.

Agent Charlie Gordon-Watson nominated Australia as a son to pay close attention to over the next few years. Beautifully bred being out of Ouija Board, he is the sire of four Group 1 winners including last Sunday’s Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud hero Broome.

“Australia is the best bred Galileo and he was an excellent racehorse,” he said. “I think he’s done really well at stud, he keeps getting good results, and now if he gets some of Galileo’s mares, that should help him go to another level.”

He added: “Galileo has been phenomenal. The great thing about him is that you never hear anything defamatory about his progeny. Any distance, any sex, any trainer, any age, any country – they do it all. As Aidan often says, they’ll run through brick walls for you. And you have to admire the foresight of Jim Bolger to use him at €30,000 and he was well rewarded for it.”

Galileo is also the damsire of 34 Group 1 winners, among them Night Of Thunder, Ghaiyyath, Saxon Warrior, Snowfall, Sottsass, US Navy Flag and the Classic-winning siblings Magna Grecia and St Mark’s Basilica, both of whom are out of Cabaret.

Galileo has become so dominant that it was only a matter of time before breeders started experimenting with inbreeding to the stallion. Appropriately it was Jim Bolger, who did so much to assist Galileo in his early years, who struck first gold as the man behind Mac Swiney, last year’s Vertem Futurity winner who is inbred 2×3 as a son of New Approach and a Teofilo mare. Recent Munster Oaks heroine Thunder Kiss (3×3) is also inbred to the stallion.

Frankie Dettori was among those to pay tribute to Galileo, telling ITV Racing: “He was an amazing horse. He became a revelation as a stallion and as a sire of sires. We thought Sadler’s Wells was great but this horse has left some legacy. It’s very sad for Coolmore. He’s done so much for racing and we must celebrate him.”

Temperament was a major key to the stallion’s success, said Anthony Stroud.

“He was a magnificent racehorse and a magnificent stallion,” said the agent, who was part of the buying team behind Godolphin’s top-class Galileo colt Line Of Duty. “He sires very sound, genuine horses. It seems that the more work you give them, the more they take it. They have everything you require in a racehorse – fantastic ability, wonderful temperaments and it doesn’t matter if it’s a colt or a filly, they’re all the same.”

Galileo’s fee has been listed as private since 2008 and at times has believed to have been in excess of €500,000. He covered 120 mares in 2020 and a select book this season.

Galileo: 1998 – 2021


Sadler’s Wells x Urban Sea (Miswaki)
Bred by David Tsui and Orpendale

Big-race wins:

2001 Derby
2001 Irish Derby
2001 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes

Stud career:

Retired to Coolmore’s Irish division in 2002
The sire of 554 stakes performers including 92 Group 1 winners
Thirty-four Group 1 scorers as damsire
Has over 20 Group 1-producing stallion sons at stud including most notably Frankel





2008 – New Approach (damsire Ahonoora); bred by Lodge Park Stud

2013 – Ruler Of The World (Kingmambo); bred by Southern Bloodstock

2014 – Australia (Cape Cross); bred by Stanley Estate and Stud Co

2019 – Anthony Van Dyck (Exceed And Excel); bred by Orpendale, Chelston & Wyatt

2020 – Serpentine (Danehill Dancer); bred by Coolmore

Galileo became the most successful Derby sire in history when Serpentine ran out a surprise winner in 2020. Photo – George Selwyn


2011 – Frankel (Danehill); bred by Juddmonte Farms

2015 – Gleneagles (Storm Cat); bred by You’resothrilling Syndicate

2017 – Churchill (Storm Cat); bred by Liberty Bloodstock

Churchill: two-year-old champion trained on to win the Newmarket and Irish 2,000 Guineas. Photo – Coolmore


2016 – Minding (Danehill Dancer); bred by Orpendale, Chelston & Wyatt

2017 – Winter (Choisir); bred by Laddies Poker Two Syndicate

2019 – Hermosa (Pivotal); bred by Beauty Is Truth Syndicate

2020 – Love (Pivotal); bred by Coolmore

Love: brilliant filly lit up last season and recently made a winning return. Photo – George Selwyn


2012 – Was (Green Desert); bred by Lodge Park Stud

2016 – Minding (Danehill Dancer); bred by Orpendale, Chelston & Wyatt

2018 – Forever Together (Theatrical); bred by Vimal and Gillian Khosla

2020 – Love (Pivotal); bred by Coolmore

Minding: swept the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks. Photo: George Selwyn


2006 – Sixties Icon (Diesis); bred by Lordship Stud

2017 – Capri (Anabaa); bred by Lynch Bages and Camas Park Stud

2018 – Kew Gardens (Desert King); bred by Barronstown Stud

Kew Gardens reigns supreme in the St Leger – Photo: George Selwyn


GALILEO’S NUMBERS BY CROPS (Northern Hemisphere)

     YEAR      FOALS     Stakes Winners  Gr.1 winners

2003      126             13                                 4

2004      80               6                                  2

2005      125             18                                 4

2006      124             14                                 3

2007       152             13                                 2

2008      162             13                                 8

2009      182             29                                6

2010       153             22                                5

2011        151             24                                5

2012       190             26                                7

2013       170             28                                8

2014       164             24                                6

2015       144             26                                6

2016       126             23                                7

2017       137             23                                 5

2018       150             7                                   3

He also has 110 two-year-olds.