Named after the famous 17th century astronomer, the bay with a thin white blaze had begun life with a headstart, being a son of the prolific Sadler’s Wells out of 1993 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Urban Sea.
His success story on the track began on October 28, 2000, when he made his debut in a 16-runner mile maiden at Leopardstown and bounded 14 lengths clear in the final furlong. It was an early clue he might be something out of the ordinary.
Decisive victories in the Ballysax Stakes and Derby Trial, both over 1m2f back at Leopardstown the following spring, stamped him as a leading Derby contender. Milan, runner-up in the Ballysax, subsequently romped home in the St Leger, while Vinnie Roe, the third, would go on to be a multiple Group 1 winner.
The 222nd Derby, staged a year later, was a strong edition, with Sir Michael Stoute having a pair of aces in Golan, the unbeaten 2,000 Guineas winner, and Dilshaan, successful in the Dante. Barry Hills also had two live challengers in Mr Combustible, who had landed the Chester Vase, and Perfect Sunday, a convincing winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial. Storming Home, who had scooped the Blue Riband Trial, and Tobougg, winner of the Dewhurst, also featured in the 12-runner line-up.
Galileo and Golan were sent off the 11/4 joint-favourites, but O’Brien must have viewed the opposition with trepidation. The then 31-year-old had wasted little time making an impression since taking over at Ballydoyle four years prior, but his previous five Derby runners had all failed to make an impact.
It was the Hills-trained runners who set the pace, with Mick Kinane adopting a stalking position on the easy-moving Galileo. Three furlongs out, the race for home began in earnest, and when Kinane asked for more, the response was immediate. Galileo clicked from cruise control into turbo and powered clear. He won by three-and-a-half lengths from Golan, with Tobougg another neck behind in third. It had been easily the most clear-cut win in the race since Commander In Chief, eight years earlier.