02/22/2012 1:29PM

Royal Academy, BC Mile winner and sire, dies at 25

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Champion and noted sire Royal Academy, who gave 54-year-old jockey Lester Piggott a thrilling comeback victory in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Mile, has died in Australia, Coolmore Stud announced Wednesday. The Nijinsky II horse was 25 and had been pensioned at Coolmore Australia for the last two years, the global breeding operation said.

Coolmore’s announcement said the stallion “succumbed to the infirmities of old age.”

“It’s very sad,” said Tom Magnier, son of Coolmore boss John 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 $120 million.”

But Royal Academy is best known in America for his Breeders’ Cup Mile win in his only U. S. start. Piggott, who had retired from the saddle for five years (one spent in prison for tax evasion), had launched his riding comeback just 12 days earlier. In the Mile at Belmont, he steered the 3-year-old Royal Academy through traffic, swept up the outside late in the stretch, and beat eventual turf champion Itsallgreektome by a neck. It was widely regarded as one of Piggott’s finest rides.

Tom Gentry bred Royal Academy from his Crimson Satan mare Crimson Saint, who also was Storm Cat’s second dam. Royal Academy topped the 1988 Keeneland July sale when trainer Vincent O’Brien bid $3.5 million for him on behalf of the Coolmore-affiliated Classic Thoroughbreds.

In addition to his Breeders’ Cup win, Royal Academy also captured the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket in 1990 and was the season’s highweighted 3-year-old at 7 to 9 1/2 furlongs.

Among his progeny are 2001 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Val Royal, European champion Oscar Schindler, Group 1 winners Bel Esprit, Bullish Luck, Ali-Royal, Carmine Lake, Sleepytime, and Zalaiyka. He also is the grandsire of current Australian sensation Black Caviar and broodmare sire of multiple English and Irish champion Finsceal Beo and prominent Australian sire Fastnet Rock.