Galileo. A true great.

Galileo. A true great.

My favourite memory of the now departed Galileo actually surrounds a day he lost. I was there when he was beaten into second by Fantastic Light in what was, on course at least, the most exciting, hair raising finish to a race I have ever witnessed.

It was September 2001 and I was back in the land of my fathers, my preferred country of Ireland, to attend the Irish Champion Stakes at a rammed Leopardstown racecourse. The atmosphere was unlike any I had experienced at a racecourse. The Irish love their racing. They know their racing. They know when they are about to see a good thing. They go for the racing. That day I was so happy to be among them as Galileo and Fantastic Light produced a gripping finish. The noise from the crowd was deafening. I am one of those people cheering that you can hear on the video below. A shiver goes down my spine just writing about that day twenty years ago. Nothing I have experienced on a racecourse since, including at the Cheltenham Festival, has matched it.

That Irish Champion Stakes was his last race. Galileo had previously won all of his previous six races, including the English and Irish Derby and the King George Stakes at Ascot in which he had beaten Fantastic Light by two lengths.

Off he went to stud where he was a busy boy covering many mares and fathering winner after winner.

As the wise and knowledgeable Kevin Blake said: “As long as there are thoroughbreds, you won’t have to look far to find Galileo in the pedigree. His influence is unrivalled in the history of the breed going forward. What an unbelievable horse he has been.

“He contributed to one of the great days in Irish flat racing. That day at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Stakes. They absolutely packed the place to see him and Fantastic Light rematch and they delivered an unbelievable contest.

“He was the most wonderful racehorse but it’s all been left behind with what he’s done as a sire. I can’t imagine what he’s done will ever be repeated. Bolshoi Ballet the other day was his 92nd individual Group 1 winner. It’s a remarkable record.”

Galileo died aged 23. His name will live on. He was a true great of racing and has left us with many top class descendants, including the now retired Frankel who is already busy trying to match his father when it comes to being another sire of winners.

Below you can watch that Irish Champions Stakes staged at Leopardstown on September 8th 2001.

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