One of the last links to the great Nijinsky – and to his equally great trainer Dr Vincent O’Brien – came to an end on Wednesday with the death of his son Royal Academy. The 25-year-old stallion succumbed to the infirmities of old age at Coolmore Australia.
“It’s very sad,” said Tom Magnier, “Royal Academy has been a tremendous servant to Coolmore, wherever he’s been based. He spent the last five years of his life here, the last two years in retirement. Particular credit must go to our head stallion man Gerry Ryan, who looked after him with great care and attention. He has been wonderfully prolific, siring more than 160 Stakes winners and his progeny earnings are the equivalent of more than US$120,000,000.”
“He sired major winners over a wide range of distances, at all ages. I suspect, though, that his greatest legacy is the speed he passed on to the best of his Australian descendants – the brilliant Black Caviar is by one of his sons while champion sire-elect Fastnet Rock is out of one of his daughters.”
Royal Academy first hit the headlines when Vincent O’Brien bid a sales-topping $3,500,000 for him at the 1988 Keeneland July Selected Yearling Sales. In addition to being a very handsome individual, he had the attraction of being out of Storm Cat’s grandam Crimson Saint.
Royal Academy proved a very sound investment for Classic Thoroughbreds Plc. Although Nijinsky’s progeny were usually noted for their stamina, O’Brien took the bold decision to run him in the six furlong July Cup. As so often, O’Brien’s judgment proved spot on and he gained his first Gr.1 success. Royal Academy then finished a good second to the exceptional sprinter Dayjur in the Ladbroke Sprint Cup before ending his career in a blaze of glory when carrying a back-from-retirement Lester Piggott to a stirring victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Belmont Park.
Royal Academy began his stallion career at Coolmore at a fee of IR30,000gns in 1991. His four first-crop Group winners were headed by Oscar Schindler (Irish St Leger) and there was at least one Gr.1 winner in each of his first five Irish crops, thanks to the efforts of Ali-Royal (Sussex Stakes), Carmine Lake (Prix de l’Abbaye), Sleepytime (1,000 Guineas), Zalaiyka (French 1,000 Guineas), Val Royal (Breeders’ Cup Mile) and Lavery (Phoenix Stakes).
Royal Academy also stood at Coolmore’s American branch, Ashford Stud, resulting in among others, Bullish Luck, a star in Hong Kong who also won the Gr.1 Yasuda Kinen in Japan. His Gr.1 winners in Australia included Black Caviar’s sire Bel Esprit, Serious Speed and Kenwood Melody.
He reminded us of his talents in 2007, when the English/Irish 2,000 Guineas double fell to his grandson Cockney Rebel (by Val Royal) and the English/Irish 1,000 Guineas double went to Finsceal Beo, out of a Royal Academy mare. Last year’s European champion 2yo Dabirsim is another product of one of his daughters.
Pictured – Royal Academy with Tom Magnier and his son Charlie who is a great-grandson of Dr Vincent O’Brien.