After the classic results over the weekend in Europe, could any living sire be more emphatically the ruler of his domain than Galileo is in the classics and middle-distance races of Europe?
There is only one answer for that question, and to stamp his footprint firmly into the sands of time, Galileo had his fifth winner of the Derby at Epsom on July 4, as Serpentine tow-roped his field over the gradients and turns of Epsom and met the rising ground of the final furlongs like an old friend.
A splendid winner of a 10-furlong maiden race a week earlier, Serpentine raced through the finish of that race at the Curragh emphatically, nine lengths ahead of his nearest pursuer, and wasn’t stopping after 12 furlongs in the Derby, either. Among his connections, particularly trainer Aiden O’Brien, the chestnut colt’s stamina was never in doubt, and that was a point of primary difference between Serpentine and his better-known opponents in the Derby.
That, and the enterprising ride the colt received from jockey Emmet McNamara, who took O’Brien’s assessment of the situation to heart and repeated the trainer’s comments in a post-race interview: “Emmet, this colt could win the Derby. He’s an even galloper, he’ll probably stay a mile and six; so your best way of trying to win this race for yourself is to pop out and go an even gallop, but be clever about it, try to fill him up at the right points in the race, and get to the winning post and try to time it right.”
McNamara was able to follow those words of wisdom to the letter, and the jockey said that Serpentine “was after doing things in such a nice rhythm, and from the four- to the five-furlong pole, I was able to let him fill himself up, and he did it just beautiful. I let him keep rolling and build a little each furlong. The way he was lengthening, you know, I knew it was going to take a really good horse to get by him. If a horse is weakening, you can sometimes feel it a furlong or furlong and a half out.
“Aiden instilled that confidence in me” to ride the colt so positively for stamina and put the opposition to the test, McNamara said. “Aidan told me when he called to offer me the ride here, ‘Emmet, this horse could win the Derby, and he was a hundred percent right.’”
In winning the English classic, Serpentine became the fifth winner of the race for his sire Galileo, who is the all-time leading sire of English Derby winners, and there will be at least four further crops by the great son of Sadler’s Wells, even if the 22-year-old Galileo never covered another mare.
In addition to placing their sire alone at the top of sires of English Derby winners, Serpentine and Love made Aiden O’Brien the leading trainer by number of Derby winners and by total English classic victories.
O’Brien has trained eight winners of the Derby, beginning with Galileo in 2001, then High Chaparral (Sadler’s Wells) in 2002, Camelot (Montjeu) in 2012, Ruler of the World (Galileo) in 2013, Australia (Galileo) in 2014, Wings of Eagles (Pour Moi) in 2017, and Anthony Van Dyck (Galileo) last year.
Serpentine races for Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, and the Derby winner was bred by Coolmore in Ireland. He is one of the four English Derby winners by Galileo that various Coolmore partnerships have bred or raced. New Approach is Galileo’s only Derby winner not bred and raced by Coolmore and partners; that horse was bred by Lodge Park Stud and won the Derby for Princess Haya of Jordan.
It is also a fact that four of the five Derby winners by Galileo are chestnut: New Approach, Ruler of the World, Australia, and Serpentine. Only Anthony Van Dyck is a bay like his sire. Love is another noble chestnut from Coolmore’s classic sire. Galileo inherited a chestnut gene from his dam, Arc de Triomphe winner Urban Sea (Miswaki), and passes that color trait on to half of his progeny, although a smaller percentage show it because chestnut is recessive.
The other chestnut gene that allows Serpentine to display the copper coat comes from his dam Remember When (Danehill Dancer). The chestnut mare did not win a race from six starts, but she finished second in the 2010 English Oaks behind Snow Fairy and was third in the McCalmont Memorial, fourth in the Irish 1,000 Guineas.
So, Remember When was considerably better than an empty stall. When sent to stud, Remember When has proven notably better still. Serpentine is the mare’s sixth foal, and five of the six are stakes winners: Group 2 winner Wedding Vow, Group 3 winner Beacon Rock, listed winner Bound, and Group 3 winner Bye Bye Baby, who was also third in the English Oaks behind champion Enable. All of Remember When’s foals are by Galileo.
Remember When was, furthermore, a half-sister to Dylan Thomas (Danehill), who won the Irish Derby, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and Arc de Triomphe; to Cheveley Park Stakes winner Queen’s Logic (Grand Lodge); and to 1,000 Guineas winner Homecoming Queen (Holy Roman Emperor).
Their dam was the Diesis mare Lagrion, who failed to win from 14 starts.
This is a family of considerable attainment that tends to improve with maturity and distance. Serpentine adds another mark of distinction, and with two victories from only four starts, he should be able to continue to improve.