When you hear terms like "C:C", "C:T", and "T:T", your mind turns instinctively to things like Bugatti, Yamaha, Suzuki, BMW, Harley Davidson and the world motorcycling championships. As you can see from the brands I've eluded to here, it's not a sport I'm deeply au fait with, the closest I've ever come to it being an acquaintance of my student days in the-then world champion, Kork Ballington, when I was serving my articles in Pietermaritzburg. Heavens knows though, we've witnessed the launch of any number of new models of these idols of the tarmac here at Hartford, and I have to say I've seen gleaming specimens which, if only they were flesh and blood, could almost stand their ground with the "mopeds" we're associated with on the farm.
The "C:Cs", "C:Ts" and "T:Ts" we know are genetic groupings recently codified by the Irish researcher Equinome, designating the likely distance aptitudes of the racehorses we breed, and it seems on the evidence to date, that they're a pretty reliable guide. By their own admission, Equinome acknowledge that there's an awful lot of elbow grease still in the genetic "works", strange but entirely true in an industry populated by billionaires yet woefully short on scientific data to gainsay the multitude of breeding "gobbledygook" you'll come by in pubs, betting shops and on the racecourse.
The racing world's natural inclination to favour the precocious, early-maturing, short-running sprinter-miler, tends to make something of a "leper" of the prospective stallion carrying the "T:T" tag, principally because they're at the stamina end of the business in what they're likely to impart to their progeny. To illustrate though, just how misguided we are in our thinking, it's worth examining the four most influential stallions in British (or European, for that matter) thoroughbred history. While the science of animal genetics was no more than a twinkle in the eyes of those who eventually mastered it when they were at their zenith, the great stallions St. Simon (turn of the 18th and early 19th century) and Hyperion (1930s through the 50s), were almost certainly "T:Ts", given their pedigrees, the distances over which they excelled and the fact that in those days, the British aristocracy, who pretty much dominated the affairs of breeding in that era, were all out to beat one another with the best three-year-old in the best race in England over a mile and a half (the Epsom Derby), with the capacity to go on at four and beyond at the distance of Royal Ascot's showpiece, the Gold Cup (2.5 miles, or near enough 4000m). Both champions of the turf, St. Simon's record tells us he won from 5 furlongs to two-and-a-half miles, while Hyperion was the dominant racehorse not only of his generation but of several, excelling from 7 furlongs to two-and-a-half miles.
Until the advent of Sadler's Wells, the world had never seen the likes of these two emperors of the stallion realm, yet when Sadler's Wells came along, he cobbled together no fewer than 14 British and Irish Championships in an altogether more competitive era, thus laying waste to Hyperion's former record of six titles.
It's a sad indictment on an otherwise glamorous and richly-endowed industry, that research in the field of thoroughbred genetics was so lacking as recently as the reign of Sadler's Wells (1980s to 2011), that there was little or no work undertaken in assessing his make-up. But what we do know is that in Galileo, he may even have exceeded his own unmatched prowess in siring a son whose record could turn out to be superior to his own. While there is a developing lobby among horsemen for the notion that Dubawi is the heir in waiting, Galileo is most people's idea of the best stallion in the world today, if not of all time, and certainly his record over a considerably longer period than that of Dubawi, stands the test of all time. Again though, it's a lamentable commentary on the fickle nature of our thinking, that there is no formal evidence of Galileo's categorisation, most likely out of a suspicion that he may be a "T:T" and what that might do to dent his commercial appeal.
That said, it's a glowing tribute to the legacy of men like John Magnier and his Coolmore team, that they have restored the honour of races like the Investec Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe to their rightful place for the tests they represent at a mile and a half, for the glory and prestige the stock of Sadler's Wells, the Galileos, the Montjeus and the High Chaparrals have brought to these events, and for the exalted status they have bestowed on the issue of the line. While Galileo was a supreme racehorse from seven furlongs to a mile and a half, his anointment as the undisputed king of his generation came appropriately, in England's most famous horserace.
You'll forgive me at this point, for remembering that ever since I backed Lester Piggott to win the English Derby in 1972 with the meagre means at my disposal as a young Stellenbosch student, I haven't missed a radio commentary or a telecast of the race since that day. And of all the Derby winners in that time, I can't remember being more blown away by a victory since Roberto's than I was on Galileo's big day. There have been wider-margin Derby winners, but Galileo looked a man among boys when, barely turning a hair, he sauntered home at Epsom by three and a half of the cosiest Classic-winning lengths you'll ever see. Beaten pointless and prayerless into second place was the undefeated 2000 Guineas hero (Golan), with the race's only dual Group One-winner (Tobougg) an honourable, but utterly unavailing third. No base metal here, just the proper hallmarked stuff.
Never worse than fifth, Galileo travelled with ominous authority throughout, and it was merely a question of when Mick Kinane would elect to go for the gloves. Approaching the two furlong marker, he asked Galileo to grab greatness and the Ballydoyle colt quickened with no more fuss than a horse leaving inferior companions behind on the early-morning gallops.
Epsom's soup-bowl of a winner's enclosure was packed with every member of the Coolmore and Ballydoyle clans who ever drew breath. And why not? Here was a horse of flawless breeding, a son of the world's best stallion of all time out of an Arc de Triomphe winning mare, and having bought the stud interests of the runner-up Golan as well, it's unlikely John Magnier and his cohorts ever had a more profitable day at the office. If you wanted to know what the victory meant to Magnier, O'Brien and Kinane, you only had to rewind 24 hours to the three of them sitting at the press conference after they'd annexed the fillies' equivalent, the Oaks, with Imagine the day before. Yes, they were pleased, but the overriding impression was that their minds were already on other things, and all three were already consumed by what might follow in the Derby itself. You suddenly realised that they didn't hope to win the Derby, they expected to win it, and even in the flush of a famous victory, the weight of that expectation lay heavy upon them. This had been O'Brien's weekend, the Oaks and the Derby bringing his Classic tally to five in the month; if the Tories had parachuted him in late to their election campaign (remember, polling day was just two days before the Derby that year) in all likelihood, he would've won that, too.
The public's perception of trainers is that they have an enviable lifestyle and, among the "world owes me a living" section of that profession, that can sometimes be true. But the apparently mild O'Brien is chiselled from an entirely different quarry, and grafts like a convict. You may think that the racing world has little more to show him at age 45, that there are few challenges left which can get his juices going. You couldn't be further from the truth. He works for an organisation that demands success, and it is on those shoulders that the final responsibility for delivery rests. However gentlemanly he may appear in carrying that burden, the fact is that he operates under fiendish pressure from dawn to long after dusk. He has learnt to be tough, but those for whom he has delivered such spectacular success over such a sustained period, deserve the credit for recognising that for him to go on hitting those heights, he needs to be allowed the space to enjoy the job.
While there have been many glories at the same venue since, when Galileo made his way to the Epsom winner's box, arguably the most hallowed piece of turf in the kingdom, he was delivering the first Derby for Coolmore in 19 years, with the sort of performance that keeps racecourse turnstiles clicking. In the immediate aftermath, Aidan O'Brien was effusive: "He's some beast, isn't he?!" he was heard to confide to the gallery of pressmen that turned up to greet the hero's return to scale, and he went on to say that his star's plans for the rest of that season included the Eclipse (10 furlongs), the Queen Elizabeth II (one mile) and the Breeders' Cup (12 furlongs), an indication of how exceptionally versatile they believed their colt to be. Galileo had clearly burnt out the turbo in Aidan O'Brien's 4x4 on the home gallops, and for connections of a Derby winner to be talking about dropping him back to a mile was extraordinary. That day's Derby had the feeling of a vintage renewal, not least because at long last there had turned up a heaving hodge-podge of humanity back on the infield: Galileo was obviously box office. And yet for all he did as a racehorse, there's little doubt he's been a significantly greater success at stud. You can't invent superstars or talk horses into greatness. They do it themselves, and it's what whets our internal whistles as fans to wait patiently for them to gallop over the skyline. Such an animal graced the downs of Epsom that day.
Galileo's Group One Stud Record
Champion 3yo in Europe, winning the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby & 'King George' in very fast times. A champion sire in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015 with 52 Gr.1 winners including Classic winners such as World Champion Frankel (2,000 Guineas), Australia (Derby), Ruler Of The World (Derby), Magician (Irish 2,000 Guineas), Gleneagles (2,000 Guineas), Was (Epsom Oaks), Roderic O'Connor (Irish 2,000 Guineas), Treasure Beach (Irish Derby), Misty For Me (Irish 1,000 Guineas), Golden Lilac (French 1,000 Guineas, French Oaks), Soldier Of Fortune (Irish Derby), Cape Blanco (Irish Derby), Sixties Icon (St Leger), Nightime (1,000 Guineas) and New Approach (Derby).