24th July 2017

Galileo’s 2001 King George celebrated in Diamonds and Pearls series


“What makes Galileo so different is his determination. His mental determination is more special than any horse we've ever seen. And most of his progeny have it, which is very rare.”

To mark the start of their sponsorship of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, in 2015 QIPCO launched the Diamonds and Pearls series. Each year the Diamonds and Pearls series recalls a vintage running of the race, this year its focus is the 2001 renewal.

Now recognised unequivocally as the leading stallion in the northern hemisphere, a record-breaking sire whose progeny include world champion Frankel, back in July 2001, Galileo was just the ‘new kid on the block’; an unbeaten three-year-old colt putting his racing reputation on the line against older horses in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot, the flat season’s midsummer showpiece.

Galileo went on to produce what the handicappers consider to be his best ever performance, improving on his wins in the Derby at Epsom and the Irish Derby at the Curragh. And in beating the leading older horse of that year, Fantastic Light, Galileo gave trainer Aidan O’Brien his first King George. This year with Highland Reel and Idaho, two full brothers and sons of Galileo, Aidan O’Brien is bidding for his fifth win the King George.

The specially commissioned film for the Diamonds and Pearls series features exclusive footage of Galileo at home at Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien talking in depth about what Galileo was like to train and what traits he passes on to his progeny.

The film covers how Galileo was born and raised at Coolmore and the only period in his life when he has been away from the stud was when in-training with Aidan O’Brien. In the film Aidan O’Brien recalls how highly the horse was regarded:

“Obviously, we always rated him very highly and he was always treated like a superstar, I think from the time he was born, when he came to Ballydoyle and when he started working. He was always in that superstar category.”

As the unbeaten dual Derby winner, Galileo was a warm favourite for the King George but he faced a very talented and tough opponent in Fantastic Light, owned by Godolphin, trained by Saeed bin Suroor and ridden by Frankie Dettori.

“Everybody was very happy with him leading up to the King George. Fantastic Light was his big competitor. He was an older horse, a very highly rated older horse. Galileo was only a baby three-year old so we didn't really know what was going to happen… it was a tough race and they fought all the way up the straight, Galileo won in the end and it was a very tough, courageous performance from him against a very seasoned, very good older horse.

“For a stallion, especially a three-year old, winning the King George is very special. That's what makes the King George the race it is. It’s when the three-year-olds face the older horses in high summer, usually on fast ground, which is the ultimate test of a flat race horse.”

O’Brien also reveals what he believes sets Galileo apart, both as a racehorse and as a stallion:

“Galileo had the ability, pedigree, physique, genuineness and he would absolutely die for you which is unbelievably rare. I can't tell you how rare that is in a horse. What makes Galileo so different is, it's not what you can see on the outside, it's what's inside. It's his determination. His mental determination is more special than any horse we've ever seen. And most of his progeny have it, which is very rare.”

Tickers for Saturday's King George day are still on sale, from £28. Find out more.