Click above to watch Lester Piggott winning the
1990 Breeders Cup Mile aboard Royal Academy
(Image : Louisville - Footage : Sydneyvic)
ROYAL ACADEMY (USA)
1990 Breeders Cup Mile (Grade 1)
The number of stories about England’s most famous jockey are legion, and we just stumbled across another one. In his twilight days, Ireland’s greatest trainer, Vincent O’Brien stumbled across one last champion, Royal Academy. Such was the colt’s talent, he delayed the master’s retirement by two years. It was in the early days of the Breeders Cup, and Vincent, always the adventurer, decided to take his Group One winning sprinter for a final tilt at the Breeder’s Cup Mile. By this time, the veteran was already approaching his 80’s, and he elected to take the “long fellow” to the States with him. Remember, Lester Piggott had already retired once, and had been brought out of retirement by Vincent O’Brien. Perhaps not quite with this purpose in mind, but almost so.
That Royal Academy turned this into one of Vincent O’Brien’s best-remembered adventures, is now part of Ireland’s folklore, but there was an amusing aside as well. As Lester Piggott disembarked from his flight into Chicago, he was asked by the immigration officer if he was there for business or pleasure. The laconic Lester replied, “just pleasure”. And thus ended the story, as Messrs Justenni and Brooks so famously said “True pleasure is rare”!