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Galileo legacy lives long at Ballydoyle and far beyond

Just a quick glance at this year’s Cazoo Derby betting highlights the influence Galileo has had on the thoroughbred breed.

It is 20 years since the son of Sadler’s Wells, out of the brilliant racemare Urban Sea, launched Aidan O’Brien’s assault on winning the blue riband.

The Coolmore team has since triumphed at Epsom with some true greats such as High Chaparral, who went on to win at the Breeders’ Cup, and Camelot, who came agonisingly close to claiming the Triple Crown.

But none of them come near to Galileo, who in his three-year-old season won the Ballysax, Derrinstown, Irish Derby and King George, as well as at Epsom.

His unbeaten run came to an end in a tremendous tussle with Fantastic Light in the Irish Champion Stakes, before the big dice was rolled in the Breeders’ Cup Classic – where he was not disgraced in sixth on dirt behind Tiznow.

Serpentine’s unlikely victory last year was a record fifth for Galileo as a sire at Epsom (his others were New Approach, Australia, Ruler Of The World and Anthony Van Dyck) – the previous record of four had been jointly held by five others, which included Montjeu.

It is odds-on he has a hand in this year’s race – because Galileo is the sire of O’Brien’s two big guns, Bolshoi Ballet and High Definition, while the next two in the betting, Hurricane Lane and John Leeper, are sons of Frankel, himself by Galileo.

Mick Kinane returns on the brilliant Galileo after the 2001 Derby
Mick Kinane returns on the brilliant Galileo after the 2001 Derby (Martyn Hayhow/PA)

O’Brien said: “He was almost the perfect racehorse. He had speed, stamina and was just a marvellous horse.

“Because of what he’s done at stud, it can get forgotten just how good he was on the track.

“He won the English and Irish Derby and then went on to win the King George – he was special.

“He was our first Derby winner, so he’s had a big say on my career.

“His legacy will live on for a long time through his fillies and his colts.”

Aidan O’Brien (centre) walks the track at Epsom with his team of jockeys in 2019
Aidan O’Brien (centre) walks the track at Epsom with his team of jockeys in 2019 (Steve Parsons/PA)

The man on board 20 years ago was Mick Kinane, who would win the Derby again on Sea The Stars – having already guided Commander In Chief to glory, so his words carry a great weight.

“He was a very good racehorse. He was foot-perfect around Epsom,” said Kinane.

“He was probably my pick at the beginning of June, because he had such good balance, and if I had to pick a Derby favourite it would be him.

“There were no negatives with him. He wasn’t keen, he had a turn of foot, his balance – he was a very good Derby winner.

“He ran in the Ballysax and Derrinstown before going to Epsom, then the Irish Derby and the King George. He ended up at the Breeders’ Cup in the Classic, but his form was just tailing off by then.

“Obviously he had nothing to lose by then, and if he could become a champion on dirt as well as turf, that was the dream.”

As well as producing Frankel, some of Galileo’s other star progeny include Nathaniel, Waldgeist, New Approach, Highland Reel and Teofilo.

Frankel, Galileo's most famous son, could have his own Derby winner this year
Frankel, Galileo’s most famous son, could have his own Derby winner this year (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

But perhaps what will see his legacy live on even longer are the brilliant mares who are now producing their own offspring of note. Found, Magical and Minding have been among the best mares of recent times, and all will do their bit to keep his name in lights.

“He had the best start in life, being out of Urban Sea, one of the best broodmares of all time, so it shouldn’t have been such a shock just how good a stallion he became,” said Kinane.

“So you could see him being a success at stud, but you couldn’t possibly envisage just how good a stallion – a stallion of stallions – he would become.

“His legacy will live on for a very long time through the mares he has produced – they will make sure we remember him for an awful long time.”

Kinane and Murtagh lead tributes to Pat Smullen

Mick Kinane hailed a “top-class professional and top-class man” as he paid tribute to his long-time weighing-room colleague Pat Smullen.

Smullen, who died on Tuesday evening at the age of 43 following a brave battle against cancer, succeeded Kinane as stable jockey to Dermot Weld at Rosewell House on the Curragh in 1999 and enjoyed huge success in the role.

Smullen went on to become Irish champion jockey nine times and was a multiple Classic winner, landing the Derby in 2016 aboard the Weld-trained Harzand.

“He was a gentleman. He came to Dermot’s, things moved on and he took over my job and did a fantastic job for a long time,” said Kinane.

“He was a top-class professional and a top-class man. We had some great tussles and we had some good times.

“Unfortunately he couldn’t win his last battle, but he tried so hard.”

Pat Smullen won the Gold Cup at Ascot on Rite Of Passage (right)with Johnny Murtagh second on Age Of Aquarius
Pat Smullen (right) won the Gold Cup at Ascot on Rite Of Passage with Johnny Murtagh second on Age Of Aquarius (Sean Dempsey/PA)

One of Smullen’s keenest rivals throughout his career was Johnny Murtagh, who is now a successful trainer – and as recently as Saturday Smullen was still in touch with his old friend.

“The racing world mourns a true legend,” said Murtagh.

“I had a big winner on Saturday (Champers Elysees in the Matron Stakes) and one of the first messages I had was from Pat saying ‘well done, Johnny, brilliant win’ so he was showing class right up to the end.

“He set the standard in the weighing room in Ireland, everyone wanted to be like him – he was the champion jockey in Ireland in more ways than one.

“He leaves some legacy. We knew all about him in racing, but it wasn’t until he retired the wider community got to see what he was like, raising all that money for cancer research and pulling so many people together for his charity race last year.

“In and out of the saddle he was just a really great guy and my thoughts and now with Frances (wife) and the kids and his mam, all his family. It will be a tough few days, but we look on his life and career with very fond memories.”

Pat Smullen celebrates winning the Irish Oaks with Covert Love
Pat Smullen celebrates winning the Irish Oaks with Covert Love (Pat Healy/PA)

Newmarket trainer Hugo Palmer will always be grateful for his association with Smullen.

The pair teamed up for a number of big-race victories – most significantly with Covert Love in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh in 2015, as Smullen and the filly gave Palmer his first Classic success.

Palmer said: “I’m hugely saddened by the news that Pat has died. A finer jockey or finer man is impossible to imagine really.

“He was always a star to work with before and after a race, and was invariably brilliant in a race. He rode some great winners for me early on in my career.

“Short Squeeze and Gifted Master were two of the key ones, but his efforts aboard Covert Love in both the Irish Oaks, which was our first Classic, and in the Prix de l’Opera, which was a thrilling victory and an extraordinary ride, were things that I will remember forever.

“I’m just incredibly grateful not only for what Pat did for me and my career, but also to have known him. My heartfelt sympathy to his wife Frances and their three children.”

Harzand and Pat Smullen come home in front in the Derby
Harzand and Pat Smullen come home in front in the Derby (David Davies/PA)

Smullen also steered Harzand to victory in the Irish Derby for owner the Aga Khan. Pat Downes, general manager at the Aga Khan’s Irish studs, said: “It’s very sad news. We had some great days. Obviously Harzand’s two Derbys were the highlight.

“A great jockey, but also a great person and he battled hard for the last two years.

“It’s a terrible loss to his family – Frances, and (children) Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, and it’s just so sad, but I think in time we can all look back and feel lucky we have known him. He was a really great person.”

Famous Name was a prolific winner in the hands of Pat Smullen
Famous Name was a prolific winner in the hands of Pat Smullen (Niall Carson/PA)

One of Smullen’s most remarkable associations was with the Weld-trained Famous Name in the Juddmonte silks of Khalid Abdullah.

Abdullah’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said: “Famous Name won 21 races, and 20 of them were at Listed or Group Three level – Pat rode him to win every single one. You can’t imagine that that has happened many times

“He was an incredibly talented jockey, but an even better human being. I know Prince Khalid was incredibly fond of him as well, both as a rider and a person.

“He was a rare breed of a man, as he showed with his work for charity.

“His life may not have had great quantity, but it had fantastic quality.”