Remembering Royal Academy

In February, it will have been four years since Royal Academy died at twenty-five. An exceptionally successful stallion of an international repute was Nijinsky’s most successful son at stud and his blood is successful all over the globe. On Sunday, we had a chance to remember him again, this time in a role in which he was successful for the first time.

Royal Academy, photo Coolmore

Royal Academy was indeed a “bred in the purple” kind of a horse. His sire Nijinsky, the most successful son of Northern Dancer and later an excellent stallion, was the last horse to win the English Triple Crown; his dame Crimson Saint, holder of the Hollywood Park record over five furlongs, produced the Gr.2 winner Pancho Villa or his full sister Terlingua, also a Gr.2 winner and, above all, the dam of the excellent sire Storm Cat.

Thanks to his excellent pedigree Royal Academy got in the centre of attention as a yearling, attracting the interest of Vincent O’Brien who bought him at the Keeneland July Selected Yearling Sale and bought him for the highest price of USD 3,500,000. And it was well invested money. Although Nijinsky is rather a source of stamina, Royal Academy was the best miler in Europe at three and he even won the major English sprint, the July Cup, over six furlongs. He won four races of seven starts, twice he placed second. His career, including, besides the win in the EBF Tetratrch Stakes (Gr.3), second places in the Irish 2,000 Guineas (Gr.1) or Ladbroke Sprint Cup (Gr.1), was crowned by the memorable triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (Gr.1), when Lester Piggott returned back to the saddle.     

He launched his stud career in 1991 at Coolmore, Ireland, where his initial fee was 30,000 Irish guineas. He stayed in Ireland until 1998 (with the exception of the 1996 season when he was in Japan) and then moved to Coolmore’s U.S. subsidiary at Ashord Stud. In his first crop he had four group winners including the winner of the Irish St Leger Oscar Schindler and he had at least one Gr.1 winner in next four crops - Ali-Royal (Sussex Stakes), Carmine Lake (Prix l’Abbaye), Sleepytime (1,000 Guineas), Zalaiyka (Poule d’Essai des Pouliches), Val Royal (Breeders’ Cup Mile) and Lavery (Phoenix Stakes). During his stay in the United States he produced mainly the gelding Bullish Luck, the Horse of the Year and two-time champion miler in Hong Kong, also the winner of the Yasuda Kinen (Gr.1) in Japan.

Royal Academy was an active shuttle stallion. In 1994 – 1999 and 2002 – 2009 he served in Australia where there was a high demand for his service, as he covered a total of 1,465 mares. In 2000 and 2001 he was in Brazil. Thanks to his geographically wide scope we can meet his blood virtually everywhere. In Australia, his most successful progeny was the excellent sprinter Bel Esprit, the winner of the Blue Diamond Stakes (Gr.1) at two, but he went to history mainly thanks to his daughter, Black Caviar, unbeaten in twenty-five races. In Brazil he was exceptionally successful – he produced as many as ten Gr.1 winners there and the locally bred horses were successful also outside Brazil, as was the case of Molengao, the winner of San Antonio Handicap (Gr.2) and runner-up in the Santa Anita Handicap (Gr.1) in the United States. The Brazilian Gr.1 winner Naughty Rafaela won the prestigious Santa Barbara Handicap (Gr.2) at Santa Anita.

Royal Academy produced, according to Equiline statistics – a total of 167 black-type winners, his daughters have already produced 175 and this number is far from final. The most successful progeny of his daughters include the winner of the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas Finsceal Beo, the two-time Gr.1 winner in Australia and one of the most successful sires today, Fastnet Rock, the French two-year-old champion Dabirsim or the winner of the St Leger and the runner-up in the Epsom Derby, Rule of Law. Royal Academy, whose pedigree combines the distance-flexible Triple Crown winner with a sprinter, produced progeny successful over all the distance spectrum, and even a short list of his most successful progeny of his daughters shows that he was equally successful as a damsire.

As a sire of sires he made his reputation mainly thanks to the above-mentioned Black Caviar, sired by Bel Esprit, but an exceptional individuality was produced by the English listed winner Ihtiram, the sire of the five-time Australian Gr.1 winner Miss Andretti. In Europe, the biggest scorer among his son was Val Royal, the sire of the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas Cockney Rebel.

Why are we recalling Royal Academy now? It is because of the Sunday Classico Sabinus, a listed race over 1,000m in Brazil, won by the cold Thunder Cat. The son of the two-time Brazilian Gr.1 winner Desejado Thunder, the grandson of Royal Academy, is the first black-type winner in history who is inbred to Royal Academy. The second influence of Royal Academy is brought into the pedigree by the winner’s granddam Neuilly, the Brazilian-born winner of the black-type Adoration Handicap at Del Mar, U.S.

Inbreeding to Royal Academy can also be found in the pedigree of three black-type placed horses. Indian breeding is represented by the third in the Calcutta Monsoon Derby, the filly Secret Love, inbred 3x3 to Royal Academy through two of his daughters born in Ireland. The remaining two black-type winners inbred to Royal Academy, Petition and El Venetian, were born in Australia. This fact, too, only proves the geographically wide scope of Royal Academy and his blood. All the more reason to remember his impact on global breeding.

Miloslav Vlček

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