First exploding onto the scene when storming clear in the 2001 Epsom Derby, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Galileo looked an above-average Classic winner at the time. Going on to further success in the Irish Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, the son of Sadler’s Wells confirmed himself as one of the greatest racehorses of his generation.
Impressive as those exploits at the track were, they were but a drop in the ocean compared to the impact that Galileo would make at stud. By the time his career as a stallion had come to an end, the beautifully made bay had made an indelible impression on the breed that seems likely to last for generations to come. Champion sire every year between 2010 and 2020, Galileo has sired the winner of all five English Classics, including a record-setting five winners of the Epsom Derby.
The death of Galileo in 2021 left a huge hole in the Coolmore breeding operation, with the 2023 and 2024 seasons set to be the final two campaigns in which the all-time great has new runners at the track. Perhaps a superstar or two may lurk amongst them, but whatever does emerge will be doing well to make an impact on the stallion’s top five most talented progeny.
5. Australia – Dam: Ouija Board, Official Rating: 127
By Galileo and out of a mare in Ouija Board who won the English and Irish Oaks, the Princess of Wales’s Stakes, and the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf on two occasions, Australia certainly had everything in his favour on paper.
A Classic win certainly looked in this one’s destiny, and a juvenile season which featured an impressive Group 3 success at Leopardstown did little to dispel that notion. Fast forward to his three-year-old campaign and Australia narrowly missed the target when third in the 2000 Guineas on his first start.
Given that pedigree, it was always likely that the 1m4f of the Derby would be more his cup of tea, and so it proved as he landed the Epsom Classic from future St. Leger winner Kingston Hill, before following up at a canter in the Irish Derby at the Curragh. A subsequent win against his elders in the Juddmonte International was good enough for an official rating of 127 and fifth place on our list.
4. Waldgeist – Dam: Waldlerche, Official Rating: 128
The only entry in our top five not trained in either Britain or Ireland, Waldgeist didn’t come from quite as impressive stock as Australia, with his mare Waldlerche having been campaigned at no higher than Group 3 level. However, that didn’t stop the Andre Fabre-trained French star from making his way to the very top.
Grabbing his first top-level success in the 2016 Criterium de Saint-Cloud, Waldgeist added wins in the Grand Prix de Saint-Claud and Prix Ganay, before his crowning moment came in his final racecourse appearance. That effort came in the 2019 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when he wore down the red-hot favourite Enable close home, to hand Galileo his second success in France’s most famous race, following the win of Found in 2016.
3. Nathaniel – Dam: Magnificent Style, Official Rating: 128
This John Gosden star had the misfortune of bumping into a horse by the name of Frankel on his racecourse debut, finishing just a ½l adrift of the Henry Cecil star in a Newmarket maiden. Little were we to know at the time, but no horse would finish closer to the greatest racehorse to ever grace the track.
Whilst only managing to win four of his 11 career starts, Nathaniel scored top marks for consistency in only once finishing outside of the frame. Twice successful at the highest level, his peak rating of 128 was achieved for slamming former Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, Workforce, in the 2011 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Also a big success at stud, Nathaniel sired the brilliant Enable, and 2022 Derby winner, Desert Crown.
2. Rip Van Winkle – Dam: Looking Back, Official Rating: 130
One of Galileo’s earliest success stories came as a result of his breeding with the unspectacular Stravinsky mare, Looking Back. Whilst achieving little at the track, Looking Back did boast speed in her pedigree which, allayed to the stamina and class of Galileo, proved to be a winning combination.
Following a promising juvenile campaign, Rip Van Winkle was plunged straight into the opening two Classics of the season on his first starts at three – finishing fourth behind the mighty Sea The Stars in both the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby. The colt was however to have his day in the sun, and it came when a hugely impressive winner of the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in 2009. Backing that up with an equally majestic display in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, he earned a rating of 130, putting him ahead of all other Galileo progeny … bar one.
1. Frankel – Dam: Kind, Official Rating: 140
No surprises at the top of this list, with the number one position belonging to the highest-rated flat racehorse of all time, the incomparable Frankel. Coming along during the twilight years of the late Henry Cecil, this monster of a horse provided the perfect conclusion to one of the great British training careers.
Even before that narrow debut success over Nathaniel, the Newmarket dogs had been barking that there was something a little bit special lurking on the Cecil gallops. Whilst such rumours aren’t always backed up, in the case of Frankel, they did scant justice to the level of displays we would witness over the coming years.
His 14 starts between 2010 and 2012 yielded 14 wins – 10 of which came at the very highest level. From his faintly ridiculous six-length rout of the field in the 2011 2000 Guineas to a simply monstrous display when coming home 11 lengths clear in the 2012 Queen Anne Stakes, this horse’s highlights reel is overflowing with wondrous performances – the like of which we may never see again.
Galileo’s greatest son also seems the most likely to step into his shoes as sire supreme, with Frankel already having given us Classic-winning colts Adayar and Hurricane Lane, and 2022 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe queen, Alpinista, amongst a whole host of 120+ rated performers.