Bolshoi Ballet’s victory in Belmont Derby a fitting salute to sire Galileo’s passing

Death of legendary stallion leaves sizeable hole in world bloodstock

The size of the hole left in world bloodstock by the death on Saturday of Galileo, the predominant sire of the last quarter century, was underlined later that night by Grade One success in New York for his son, Bolshoi Ballet.

That colt's success in the $1 million Belmont Derby meant he became the 92nd top-flight winner for a stallion described by trainer Aidan O'Brien as "unique."

It is a record tally of excellence in the modern era and a measure of Galileo’s influence on the breed that assures him of being ranked with any other sire in any other generation.

A top-class racehorse who won the Derby at both Epsom and the Curragh in 2001, he succeeded his own sire Sadlers Wells as the prepotent horse at the Coolmore empire and then some.


With a stellar list of progeny topped by the world champion Frankel, Galileo’s fee was kept resolutely private by Coolmore for much of his career.

However it is believed to have been in excess of €500,000, making him the most expensive stallion in the world.

A regular book of up to 200 of the best mares meant he was all but priceless for the last decade although the loss to the Coolmore operation won’t be just financial.

“I would say 65 to 70 per cent of the mares he was covering would have been their own. So it wasn’t as much about being a financial vehicle for Coolmore as what he was able to produce in terms of progeny,” said one bloodstock expert on Sunday who preferred to remain private.

“Over the last few years I suspect his powers were actually on the wane, probably through age as much as anything. I don’t think he was quite the force he once was.

“His best were fillies. He wasn’t producing the calibre of colt he once did. If you look at the rather strange year Aidan is having this season I think that shows,” he added.

Bolshoi Ballet was getting his season back on track after flopping in the Epsom Derby last month while his stable companion High Definition failed to fire in the Irish Derby.

However the winners of those classics, the Godolphin pair Adayar and Hurricane Lane, are both sons of Frankel.

That horse is based at Juddmonte in Newmarket which leaves the vast Coolmore empire looking for a new standard-bearer.

The one Ballydoyle colt to step up to the classic plate so far this year is St Mark’s Basilica, the first son of the Aga Khan’s stallion Siyouni that O’Brien has trained.

With a pair of French classics and stunning Eclipse victory last time St Mark’s Basilica is currently the highest rated racehorse in the world. He is likely to retire to stud at the end of the season.

Good results

Coolmore also bought the sire Wootton Bassett from France last year and he stands at a fee of €100,000.

“They paid a lot of money for Wootton Bssett from France. I think we might see a lot more Siyounis. And with Galileo dead there might be more appreciation of both Australia and Camelot, even within Coolmore.

“Australia [a son of Galileo] in particular has been getting good results this year,” said a bloodstock insider.

Camelot's daughter Santa Barbara also won at Grade One level on Saturday night in the Belmont Oaks, giving O'Brien and jockey Ryan Moore a lucrative double.

However reassurance that Group One success isn’t solely a blue-blooded privilege came at Deauville on Sunday with another top-flight Irish victory.

Laws Of Indices, an €8,000 yearling purchase, sprang a 28-1 surprise in the Prix Jean Prat for Curragh trainer Ken Condon.

Veteran French jockey Olivier Peslier gave a front-running master-class on the unfashionably bred son of Power to hold off Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon in an Irish one-two. Midtown was third.

The Ballydoyle pair, Battleground and Wembley, finished out of the money.

It was a second Group One victory at Deauville for Condon who saddled Romanised to win the Prix Jacques Le Marois in 2019.

Monday sees the fourth of five days in a row with two fixtures in Ireland.

Ken Condon sends one runner to the start of Killarney’s July festival where another Cork trainer, Paddy Twomey, can strike with the filly La Petite Coco.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column