Galileo, Groupthink, National Hunt Breeding And A New Heresy….

Back in 1633, Galileo was convicted of heresy for his espousal of the heliocentric view of the universe. He was sentenced to house arrest which lasted until his death in 1642.

Sadler’s Wells transformed National Hunt breeding, so breeders seem to assume that Galileo will do the same. Here is my heresy; when it comes to National Hunt breeding, I don’t believe in Galileo… The Catholic Church admitted it was wrong in 1992. I wonder if it will take as long to admit to a mistake by National Hunt breeders?

Grounds for Concern:

1. Sadler’s Wells was a great sire of jumpers, Galileo isn’t.

Looking at Racing Post Ratings, from 294 runners over jumps, Galileo has sired just two runners rated over 155, Celestial Halo on 167 and Supasundae on 165 . In contrast from 362 runners, Sadler’s Wells has 11 runners including the imperious Istabraq on 181, Synchronized on 171, Pridwell on 169, Essex on 165 and Theatreworld on 164 .

Galileo also suffers in comparison with Montjeu. Montjeu had fewer National Hunt runners at 249, but has sired 8 horses rated 155 or above, headlined by Hurricane Fly on 173. To date sire sons of Montjeu have also achieved more than sons of Galileo in the National Hunt realm(eg Douvan, Min, Tiger Roll, Might Bite aka Does Bite) but that’s a discussion for another day. The fact that Galileo hasn’t sired good jumpers doesn’t mean that his sons won’t succeed, but it does create a doubt. Where there is doubt, you would expect caution but instead we have a reckless herd mentality on an almost unprecedented scale.

2. Galileo’s National Hunt Stallion Sons are unproven

Galileo has no proven, established National Hunt stallion sons. Mahler has made a good start (eg Chris’s Dream, Ornua) but not enough to warrant 227 mares in 2019. Soldier of Fortune attracted 275 mares in 2019 and 290 in 2018. That is a lot of faith to put in a stallion who still has to deliver a really top horse but who at least has Busted and Lord Gayle as his dams grand-sires.

Displaying even more faith, but without a comparable female line or any racecourse evidence, were the 275 breeders who used Order of St George, the 225 who went to Idaho and the 190 mares who went to Telescope. That is around 1200 mares from those 5 sons of Galileo. Am I the only person who thinks this might be insane?

3. The sheer scale of the problem

Next season those five stallions will be joined by Leger winners Capri and Flag of Honour, who can both expect significant books. There are a host of others including Finsceal Fior, Imperial Monarch, Proconsul, Vendangeur, Sans Frontieres, Shantaram also in the marketplace. The total foal crop in the UK (4655) and Ireland (8788) in 2019 was 13,443 foals. In Britain it is estimated that 23% of the foal crop is intended as NH or dual purpose and in Ireland it is 48%. This would equate to 5,288 national hunt or dual purpose foals. We could be looking at over 1,700 or around one third of the National Hunt crop being by sons of Galileo.

Conclusion:

I’m sure that there will be many good horses sired by the sons of Galileo. The sheer weight of numbers make that almost inevitable. However, the percentages may be less than expected.

No one is asking about the implications of having so many foals from the same sire line. Half of the foals will be fillies so we are the changing the National Hunt breed forever.

French National Hunt breeding has outperformed the UK and Irish sectors over the past two decades. There are a lot of factors at play, but a willingness to embrace diversity in sire lines and smaller books that allow more stallions a chance have an impact. Irish breeders acting individually think they are being rational but the cumulative effect of their group-think could damage everyone in the National Hunt sector…

The Irish Derby- A source of great sires?

Federico Tesio famously said ” The Thoroughbred exists because its selection has depended, not on experts, technicians, or zoologists, but on a piece of wood: the winning post of the Epsom Derby”. If the fabled Italian was around today he might replace Epsom with the Curragh. The relative importance of Epsom has undoubtedly declined and that of the Irish Derby has increased . Due to the vagaries of the track the best horse doesn’t alays win at Epsom.  The best horse nearly always wins at the Curragh. The timing of the Irish Derby which allows it to bring together the winners of the Epsom and French Derbies also facilitates this. So what about its record as a source of leading sires. Well let’s stroll down memory lane and look at the stud records of the last 26 Irish Derby winners….

2008 Frozen Fire (Montjeu-Flamingo Sea by Woodman). Won an incident packed Irish Derby in which is stablemate and paternal half brother Alessandro Volta caused all sorts of mayhem. This was only his second win after a maiden but he was only beaten a short head in the Dante before disappointing at Epsom. He fetched €250000 as a yearling and his pedigree is solid rather than spectacular.  Given the circumstances of his Irish Derby win, he will probably need to add another Group 1 to his CV to make himself an attractive stallion prospect. (sire rating unknown)

2007 Soldier of Fortune (Galileo-Affinanced by Erins Isle). Soldier of Fortune recently added the Coronation Cup to his record. As a son of Galileo he is sure to be popular on  his retirement to Coolmore. (sire rating unknown)

2006 Dylan Thomas (Danehill-Lagrion by Diesis). Added 5 more group 1’s including an Arc and King George to his record at three and four. He became the second son of Danehill to triumph 9 years after Desert King. Currently standing at €50000 in Coolmore (sire rating unknown)

2005 Hurricane Run (Montjeu-Hold On by Surumu).  From the outstanding first crop of Montjeu (1999) went onto add 3 more Group 1’s to his record including an Arc and King George. Currently standing for €30000 at Coolmore.(sire rating unknown)

2004 Grey Swallow (Daylami-Style of Life by The Minstrel). From the first crop of Daylami, his career never really again reached the heights of his Curragh defeat of North Light. He did add another Group 1 in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at 4. He also picked up some Grade2 in the US at 5. He was shipped to Australia for the Cox Plate but picked up an injury. He has remained in Australia and stands at Woodside Park Stud for $16500, his fee perhaps a reflection of the fall from grace of Daylami who is now based in South Africa. He was the first sire since St Jovite in 1992 not to represent the Northern Dancer sire line, but he was still close up as his dam was by The Minstrel(sire rating unknown)

2003 Alamshar (Key of Luck-Alaiyda by Sharastani). Became the only horse to ever defeat Dalakhani when out-battling him at the Curragh. Initially sold to Japan, he is now in residence at the Irish National stud for €5000. I reckon this is good value (see earlier post on bargain basement sires)(sire rating unknown)

2002 High Chapparal (Sadler’s Wells-Kasora by Darshaan). One of six offspring of Sadler’s Wells to triumph, and at the time the fourth in five years. His oldest crop are now three year olds and although he got an Italian Guineas winner in Senlis he is so far disappointing. He is currently listed at €15000 but if he doesn’t get a few big winners soon, he will be sold on or will find himself operating as a NH sire.(sire rating 3/10)

2001 Galileo (Sadler’s Wells-Urban Sea by Miswaki). The hottest stallion in Europe. Having a fantastic season with his two, three and four year olds. So far he has had New Approach winning the Derby, Lush Lashes the Coronation, Cima de Triomphe an Italian Derby, Soldier of Fortune a Coronation Cup and Cuis Gaire the Albany stakes. To this roll call can be added previous stars Teofilo, Sixties Icon, Nightime, Red Rocks and Allegretto. His fee is listed as private and he is the annointed successor to his own sire Sadler’s Wells.(sire rating 9/10)

2000 Sinndar(Grand Lodge-Sinntara by Lashkari). An oustanding racehorse who later added the Arc to his Derby and Irish Derby triumphs. Retired to his owner the Aga Khans Gilltown stud he failed to get a lot of patronage from outside breeders. He was by far the best son of his inconsistent sire Grand Lodge, out of Sinntara who won an Irish Cesearwich.  He now stands at the Aga’s french stud Bonnveval for €20000.  He is a good sire for the money and has sired two outstanding runners in Youmzain and Shawanda. Hopefully he will get the patronage he deserves from French breeders.(sire rating 6.5/10)

1999. Montjeu (Sadler’s Wells-Floripedes by Top Ville). Outstanding racehorse and now outstanding sire. I obviously have a soft spot for him given the name of this blog. His outstanding first crop had one,twos in the Epsom and Irish Derby’s with Motivator, Walk in the Park, Hurricane Run and Scorpion. Has since added another Epsom winner with Authorised and just after writing this article Frozen Fire gave him another Irish Derby. His fee at €125000 marks him as the second most expensive stallion at Coolmore after his paternal half brother Galileo. interesting his % of stakes winners was slightly better than Galileos. (sire rating 9/10)

1998 Dream Well (Sadler’s Wells-Soul Dream by Alleged). Followed up his French Derby success with victory at the Curragh. His subsequent career was somewhat disappointing. Another son of Sadler’s Wells his dam Soul Dream later produced another French Derby winner in Sulamani. He was sold to Japan where he left behind nothing of note. Similarly his time as a shuttler to Australia left behind nothing of note. He now stands at Haras de Fresney-le- Buffard in France for €2000 and is in essence a dual purpose sire. His oldest European crop are only three year olds, but nothing of significance has emerged.  (sire rating 2/10)

1997 Desert King( Danehill-Sabaah by Nureyev).  A horse who helped to establish two reputations. Firstly that of his sire Danehill who until Desert King was well short of supersire status in the Northern hemisphere. Secondly he was the first important colt trained at Ballydoyle by Aidan O’Brien for the Coolmore axis. He was a tough and versatile colt winning the National stakes at two, impressively winning the Irish Guineas at three and recovering from a disappointing run at Ascot to win the Irish Derby. Ironically the colt he defeated at the Curragh was Dr Johnson owned by former Ballydoyle maestro Vincent O’Brien and trained by Charles O’Brien who it was assumed would take over Ballydoyle.  At stud he surprised many by proving to be an influence for stamina. He sired an Ascot Gold Cup winner in Mr Dinos and one of the great racemares of the modern era down under in Makybe Diva. His stud career started in Coolmore from where he shuttled to Australia. He was then banished from the Coolmore roster to Japan and last year he was transferred to Scarvagh House who are marketing him as a dual purpose sire for £4000/€5800. He has sired six group one winners which alongside those already mentioned includes Chelsea Rose who won a Moyglare and Desert War who is a multiple Group 1 winner in Australia. (sire rating 5/10)

1996 Zagreb (Theatrical-Sophonisbe by Wollow). Zagreb was a 20-1 shot when winning Dermot Weld’s first Irish Derby by 6 lengths. It provided compensation for the narrow defeat of his sire Theatrical (also trained by Weld) in the 1985 renewal. He only ran once more when unplaced in the Arc and in total his career lasted only four races. He also ended up in Japan where he did leave behind some runners of note in Group 1 winners in Cosmo Bulk and Cosmo Sunbeam. However he obviously didn’t do enough and he now earns his oats as a National Hunt sire at Beechbrook stud covering for €1500 (sire rating 3/10)

1995 Winged Love (In the Wings-J’ai Deux Amours by Top Ville). This son of In The Wings was the first grandson of Sadler’s Wells to triumph when he shortheaded Definite Article, with hot favourite and his Chantilly conqueror Celtic Swing unplaced. He never won again after the Curragh but arguably ran even better when a close fourth behind Lammtarra in the King George. He was retired to stud in Germany and got a number of stakes winners but nothing above Group 2 level. He is now in Scarvagh House stud for £2500/€3500 where he is marketed as a National Hunt sire and should attract lots of support after the success of Twist Magic. (sire rating 3/10)

1994 Balanchine (Storm Bird-Morning Devotion by Affirmed. The Oaks winner easily accounted for subsequent King George winner King’s Theatre to give Frankie Dettori his first success.  As a broodmare the daughter of Storm Bird has proved a disappointment. (sire rating- N/A)

1993 Commander in Chief (Dancing Brave-Slightly Dangerous by Roberto). The undefeated Epsom derby winner had to work hard to defeat the French Derby winner Hernando. His only subsequent run was a slightly disappointing third in the King George.  Like so many Derby winners of the nineties he was sold to Japan. He was the best son of Dancing Brave but not the best son of his outstanding dam Slightly Dangerous who also produced the great miler Warning, along with an Irish Derby runner up in Deploy, Grade 1 winner Yashmak and Derby runner-up Dushyantor. He spent his entire career at Yashun stud in Japan until his relatively early death last year. He sired 15 stakes winners including a champion Japanese two year old in Ein Bride, but it is fair to say that overall his career was disappointing. (sire rating 2.5/10)

1992 St Jovite (Pleasant Colony-Northern Sunset by Northfields). St Jovite put up a stunning performance to defeat Dr Devious and smash the course record in the process. I rank it as perhaps the best middle distance performance I have ever seen and if you want a reminder go to the ‘photos and videos’ sections.  As a son of Pleasant Colony he was one of the rare examples of a winner that isn’t from the Northern Dancer line but his dam was by Northfields so the great Canadian wasn’t too far away.  He followed up with another impressive performance in the King George before a slightly controversial defeat in the Leopardstown Champion stakes. His final run was in unsuitably soft ground in the Arc.  Unfortunately for his career he was retired to stud in North America, where perhaps he wasnt sent the right type of mares or he wasnt appreciated by American breeders.  Nevertheless he proved a major disappointment with Equerry his only performer of note in Europe. He was recently repatriated and is standing as a jumps sire for the Bowes in Greentree stud at an advertised fee of €5000 (sire rating 1/10)

1991- Generous (Caerleon-Doff the Derby by Master Derby). Very impressive at Epsom and then defeated another colt in Suave Dancer at the Curragh. Followed up impressively in the King George. He was retired with great expectations to Bansted Stud. However in 1996 he was sold to Japan for a reported $16million. From his initial UK crops he left behing plenty of Group winners including Catella,Blueprint, Corteous and Oaks runner-up Bahr. However he lacked a real superstar and it is fair to say that his departure wasn’t considered too big a blow. He was subsequently repatriated and spent time at the Plantation Stud but he is now in situ at Scarvagh stud for £4500. Since his return he has sired a German classic winner in Mystic Lips. He is also developing a reputation as a promising broodmare sire, notably with the brothers Golan and Tartan Bearer. His percentage of stakes winners is impressive and I have previously written that I think he is now a good value sire. (sire rating 5.5/10)

1990 Salsabil (Sadler’s Wells-Flame of Tara by Artaius). Became the first filly since Gallinaria in 1900 to triumph. One of the outstanding fillies of the modern era she also won a Prix Marcel Boussac, 1000 Guineas,Oaks and Prix Vermeille. She was also a good broodmare producing stakes winners in the lazily name Bint Salsabil (Bint is Arabic for daughter) and Alabaq and she left behind a decent stallion son in the recently deceased Mr Prospector horse Sahm (sire rating N/A)

1989 Old Vic (Sadler’s Wells-Cockade). From the outstanding first crop of Sadler’s Wells, his Curragh victory was his second Derby as he had earlier won at Chantilly.  Retired with big expectations to Dalhalm stud he was hugely disappointing. He was eventually banished to Japan before returning to the UK and eventually ending up as a jumps sire in Sunnyhill Stud in Kildare. He is now established as an oustanding jumps sire and has already sired a Gold Cup winner in Kicking King and a Grand National winner in Comply or Die. Covering huge books for the past few years he is certain to have a huge influence on  the jumping scene for the next decade. (sire rating flat 1/10), (sire rating jumps 9/10)

1988 Kahyasi (Ile de Bourbon-Kadissya by Blushing Groom). Completed the Epsom/Curragh double when defeating Insan at the Curragh. He was never too popular with Irish breeders at Gilltown and was eventually transferred to the Aga Khans French stud. His best runners were Zainta who won a French Oaks and Enzeli who won an Ascot Gold Cup. However it is as a broodmare sire that he will be best remembered. He is the sire of the phenomenal Hasili who has produced Banks Hill. Intercontinental,Heat Haze, Cacique, Champs Elysses and major sire Dansili. He is also broodmare sire of this years star French filly Zarkava, and Promising Lead who is out of Hasili’s sister Arrive. (sire rating 5/10)

1987 Sir Harry Lewis (Alleged-Sue Babe by Mr Prospector). Sir Harry Lewis improved upon his fourth place at Epsom to defeat Naheez and Entitled at the Curragh. Kept in training at four he failed to add to his record. He was sent to stud in the US which probably wasn’t the best choice for a turf loving son of Alleged. I can’t recall any major winners by him but he did crop up as the broodmare sire of Volponi the 2002 Breeders Cup Classic winner. Like many sons of Alleged he has ended up as a National Hunt sire and now stands at Wood Farm stud for £1500. He is compiling a creditable record with the likes of Mighty Man and Burnt Oak boy (sire rating 2/10)

1986 Shahrastani (Nijinsky- Shademah by Thatch). Shahrastani got almost no credit for his Epsom Derby victory as everyone focused on Greville Starkeys ride on Dancing Brave. At the Curragh Shahrastani was the undoubted star when he put up a superb performance, so good that I feel he would have again beaten Dancing Brave. That was the year that Nijinsky also sired Ferdinand winner of the Kentucky Derby and Shahrastani was sold to stud in the US. He proved to be a really, really, really bad sire. He is now back in the UK and stands at Walton Fields Stud for £1250 (sire rating 0/10)

1985 Law Society (Alleged- Bold Bikini by Boldnesian). Law Society was well beaten by Slip Anchor at Epsom but without that rival to contend with at the Curragh he just held off Theatrical to give Vincent O’Brien his sixth Irish Derby. At the time of his retirement the bloodstock boom was just winding but he was still valued at a reputed £13 million. Despite the best efforts of the Coolmore marketing machine Law Society never did enough to justify a lofty stud fee despite some successes such as Homme De Loi, Right Win, Approach the bench and Anzillero. He now stands in Germany for €6000 (sire rating 3.5/10)

1984 El Gran Senor (Northern Dancer- Sex Appeal by Buckpasser). A champion two year old, brilliant winner of the Guineas, agonisingly defeated by Secreto at Epsom, El Gran Senor was odds on at the Curragh and duly obliged. It proved to be his last run and he was syndicated at $40 million dollars. It was said the defeat at Epsom had knocked $20 million off his valuation. Alas his stud career was hindered by fertility problems and in the course of his career he had less than 400 foals. He sired 55 stakes winners or a whopping 14% stakes winners before he was pensioned in 2000. Amongst his 12 group 1 winners were  Rodrigo de Triano, Lit de Justice, Saratoga Springs, Al Hareb and Toussaud.  Toussaud went on to become a remarkable broodmare and to date is dam of 4 grade 1 winners including Empire Maker and Chester House. Other daughters of El Gran Senor have produced Ramonti and Le Vie dei Colori. (sire rating 9/10)

1983 Shareef Dancer (Northern Dancer-Sweet Alliance by Sir Ivor). Shareef Dancer cost $3.3 million as a yearling and was synicated for $40 million after defeating the French Derby winner Caerleon and Epsom winner Teenoso. He never ran again and it was said at the time that ‘he was too valuable to race’. He retired to Dalhalm Hall for £100,000 fees that quickly became unsustainable given the ending of the bloodstock mania and his own relative lack of success. He did sire some decent runners in Possessive Dancer, Rock Hopper and Glory of Dancer but overall he had to be classified as a disappointment. He also gets some credit as the broodmare sire of Sheikh Mohammeds favourite horse Dubai Millennium, (sire rating 3/10)